Based on the latest available measured data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS):
- An estimated 63% of Australian adults had a waist circumference that put them at an increased risk of chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes.
- The proportion of men and women with an at-risk waist circumference generally increased with age, with 81% of men aged 65–74 and 84% of women aged 75 and over (Figure 1).
After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the populations:
- Women were 1.1 times more likely to have a waist circumference that put them at increased risk of chronic disease than men
- The proportion of people with an at-risk waist circumference has remained steady since 2011–12 (AIHW analysis of ABS 2013, ABS 2016 and ABS 2019a).
Waist circumference for adults is a good indicator of total body fat and is a better predictor than body mass index (BMI) for certain chronic conditions such as cardiovascular risk and type 2 diabetes (NHMRC 2013). A waist circumference above 80 cm for women and 94 cm for men is associated with an increased risk of chronic conditions. A waist circumference above 88 cm for women and 102 cm for men is associated with a substantially increased risk of chronic conditions (WHO 2000).
Figure 1: Increased risk of developing chronic diseases based on waist circumference, adults, by age and sex, 2017–18