How obese are Australians?
Results from the thirteenth biennial health report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), June 2012
According to Australia’s Health 2012, Australians are generally ‘healthy’ and currently enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world – 79.5 years for men and 84.0 years for women. Most children are now fully immunised and public health success in tobacco control has seen smoking rates more than halved between 1985 and 2011-2012 with now only 16% of adults considered ‘daily smokers’.
But it’s not all good news. Australia’s Health, launched in June 2012 by Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, shows that rates of obesity in adults have continued to increase with latest figures showing more than 1 in 4 adults are now obese. This equates to almost 5 million people aged 18 or over and ranks Australian men with the 2nd highest rate of obesity among OECD countries, and women a close fifth. Encouragingly however, the rate of obesity in Australian children has remained steady between 2007 and 2012 at 8% (or 1 in 12). Though this is still an unacceptably high rate, it is suggestive that public health interventions have been successful at halting obesity rates in this target group and may continue to slow rates as these children move in adulthood.
But we still see that the majority of Australians are at least overweight; 63.4% of adults and 25% of children. And it’s even worse for some Australians. Men and women who live in more disadvantaged areas of Australia are more likely to be obese, suggesting obesity may become a major cause of health inequalities. This is particularly evident for men, with obesity more common in Outer Regional and Remote Areas compared to Major cities (36% compared with 23%, respectively). Further, more than 1 in 3 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults are now obese.
Due to the large burden that obesity places on individuals, families and the community, the Australian Government has set one of its health priorities the halting and reversing of current obesity trends. Though this is encouraging, if these new statistics are anything to go by, we have a long way to go before this becomes a reality. This is no longer a problem just for the obese individual, but a problem for the population as a whole. Consequently, Government needs to act, it needs to act stronger and it needs to act now.
For more information visit: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.001
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