Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2019) The health of Australia’s females, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 03 February 2023.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2019). The health of Australia’s females. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
The health of Australia’s females. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 10 December 2019, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The health of Australia’s females [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2019 [cited 2023 Feb. 3]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2019, The health of Australia’s females, viewed 3 February 2023, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/men-women/female-health
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Excess body weight, known as overweight and obesity, is a risk factor for many conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis. Overweight and obesity is among the leading causes of death and disability in Australia (AIHW 2019a).
One way of measuring excess body weight at the population level is to use the body mass index (BMI)—an internationally recognised standard for classifying overweight and obesity in adults. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. Differences in body composition may affect the appropriateness of BMI, and different BMI cut-off points may need to be considered for certain population groups such as:
Height and body composition are continually changing for children and adolescents. A separate classification of overweight and obesity for children is used based on age and sex (Cole et al. 2000).
Information in this section relates to measures of overweight and obesity as estimated using BMI.
3 in 5
Australian women are overweight or obese
According to 2017–18 data (ABS 2018):
Overweight and obesity is more common in older age groups. Around 3 in 4 women (73%) aged 65–74 were overweight or obese, compared with 2 in 5 women (40%) aged 18–24 (ABS 2018).
The proportion of women who were overweight or obese varied for some population groups. After adjusting for age (ABS 2013, ABS 2019c):
The proportion of females who were overweight or obese in 2017–18 differed between women and girls (ABS 2019c):
Overweight and obesity among girls aged 2–17 varied for some population groups (ABS 2019c):
Note: Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Chart: AIHW. Source: ABS 2018 (see Tables S5 and Table S6 for footnotes).
For more information see Overweight and obesity.
Waist circumference is another common measure of overweight and obesity. For women, a waist circumference above 80cm is associated with an increased risk of metabolic complications and above 88cm a substantially increased risk (WHO 2011).
2 in 3
Australian women have a waist circumference associated with increased or substantially increased metabolic risk
According to 2017–18 data, 2 in 3 Australian women (66%) had a high-risk waist circumference—that is, one associated with an increased or substantially increased risk of metabolic complications (Figure 8). The average waist circumference for women aged 18 and over in 2017–18 was 88 cm (ABS 2018).
A high-risk waist circumference is more common in older women. In 2017–18 (ABS 2019):
The prevalence of high-risk waist circumference varied for some population groups. After adjusting for age (ABS 2019a):
Note: Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Chart: AIHW. Source: ABS 2019a (see Table S7 for footnotes).
While excess weight is commonly managed using dietary intervention and exercise, for those who are morbidly obese, or who are obese and have other conditions related to their excess weight, weight loss surgery may be appropriate.
Weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) aims to help obese patients lose weight and lower the risk of medical problems associated with obesity. It restricts the amount of food a recipient can eat or alters the process of food digestion so that fewer calories are absorbed.
In 2017–18, females accounted for 80% of procedures for weight loss surgery (31,600 procedures). The rate of weight loss surgeries among females for the same year was 251 per 100,000, an increase from 2015–16 with 23,663 procedures and a rate of 194 per 100,000 (AIHW 2019b).
For more information see Weight loss surgery in Australia 2014–15.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2013. Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2012–13: First results. ABS cat. no. 4727.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2017. Personal Safety Survey, Australia, 2016. ABS cat. no. 4906.0. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2018. National Health Survey: First results, 2017–18. ABS cat.no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2019a. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, detailed microdata, DataLab. ABS cat no. 4324.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Findings based on AIHW analysis of ABS microdata.
ABS 2019b. National Health Survey: Users’ Guide, 2017–18. ABS cat.no. 4363.0. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2019c. National Health Survey, 2017–18. Customised report. Canberra: ABS.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2017a. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework 2017: supplementary online tables. Cat. no. WEB 170. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2017b. National Drug Strategy and Household Survey 2016: key findings online data tables. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019a. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2015. Australian Burden of Disease series no.19. Cat. no. BOD 22. Canberra: AIHW.
AIHW 2019b. Procedures and healthcare interventions (ACHI 10th edition), Australia, 2017–18. Cat. no. WEB 216. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed July 18 2019.
Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM & Dietz WH 2000. Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. BMJ 320:1240–3.
Department of Health 2019. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines and the Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines. Canberra: Department of Health.
NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) 2013. Clinical practice guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in adults, adolescents and children in Australia. Canberra: NHMRC.
Pederson BK and Saltin B 2015. Exercise as medicine - evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in 26 different chronic diseases. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports 25 (Suppl 3):1-72.
WHO (World Health Organization) 2011. Waist circumference and waist-hip ratio: report of a WHO expert consultation. Geneva, 8–11 December 2008.
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