AIHW news

The nation's heavy burden

When it comes to weight, most of us are probably aware of our nation’s position and the fact that we’re carrying a serious burden.

Almost 2 in 3 adults and 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese and the situation doesn’t seem to be getting better—but it could.

According to data from the Impact of overweight and obesity as a risk factor for chronic conditions: Australia’s Burden of Disease Study, released in April 2017, small changes in our weight could significantly reduce the ongoing health impact of obesity.

So how small do the changes need to be? Around 3 kg, according to the findings.

In fact, if all Australians at risk of disease due to overweight or obesity in 2011 reduced their body mass index by just one point—equating to around 3 kg for a person of average height—the overall health impact of obesity would reduce by 14% in 2020.

Even if we just maintained our weight, about 6% of this ‘burden’ would be avoided.

Dr Lynelle Moon, who heads the Institute’s Health Group, said, ‘Our weight is our second biggest risk factor of the health ‘burden’, accounting for 7%—second behind tobacco, which accounts for 9% of the burden—though this gap has closed in recent years, as the burden of tobacco drops and the burden of obesity rises’.

A total of 22 diseases were included in the analysis, which revealed that around half of diabetes burden (53%) and osteoarthritis burden (45%) were due to overweight and obesity.

The scale of the issue is large. Just last December, an AIHW report showed that vascular diseases, such as stroke, and risk factors like smoking and obesity, were major contributors to the burden of dementia in Australia.

‘Dementia is a serious and growing health problem in Australia. Previous AIHW reports have shown that dementia accounts for 3.4% of the total burden of disease in Australia,’ said Dr Moon.

Our weight is our second biggest risk factor of the health burden—second behind tobacco.

Given the risks of carrying a few extra kilograms, and the newly reported impact that shedding a few could make on our country’s overall health, it’s important to consider what action can be taken to move in the right direction.

Overall health impact of overweight and obesity

The enhanced analysis in this report indicates:

  • 7% of the total health burden in Australia in 2011 was due to overweight and obesity

– 63% of this was fatal burden (that is, resulted in death) rather than non-fatal burden (that is, living with the disease)

– 84% was experienced between ages 45 to 84

  • males experienced a greater proportion of burden from overweight and obesity (males 7.3% of total burden; females 6.6%)
  • 53% of diabetes burden and 45% of osteoarthritis burden were due to overweight and obesity.


Posted under Health.

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