Excess weight, especially obesity, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, some musculoskeletal conditions and some cancers. As the level of excess weight increases, so does the risk of developing these conditions. In addition, being overweight can hamper the ability to control or manage chronic disorders.
Three out of five Australian adults and one in four children are obese or overweight. Loosing small amounts of weight by changing your eating patterns and increasing your physical activity significantly reduces the risks of these diseases.
In 2007, the World Health Organisation (WHO) found that 67.4% of Australian adults are overweight, ranking 21st in the world, and third out of the major countries in the developed world behind the United States of America (ranked 9th) and New Zealand (ranked 17th). A 2005 WHO study found that just over 20% of Australian adults are obese, which is expected to rise to roughly 29% in 2010 if current trends continue.
In the 2005 National Health Survey, 53.6% of Australians reported being overweight (above a 25 BMI), with 18% falling into the “obese” category (above a 30 BMI). This is nearly double the reported number from 1995, when 30% of adults were overweight and 11% were obese. Such representations would be skewed downward as people tend to overestimate their height and under-report their weight, the two key criteria to determine a BMI reading. In the National Health Survey, obesity reports were fairly common across the board, with no major outliers.
The percentage of overweight and obese children in Australia, despite heavy increases in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, have remained mostly steady for the past 10 years, with 23 to 24% of Australians under the age of 18 classified as overweight, and 5 to 6% of the same demographic classified as obese.
Increased media attention on childhood obesity, in 2007 and 2008 especially, caused many researchers to print findings that the rate of obesity for children has reached a plateau or that the claims are simply “exaggerated.”
Diabetes and cost of obesity
In May 2008, Diabetes Australia, the national body for diabetes awareness and prevention, told the House of Representatives that the cost of obesity on the country’s health system in 2005 was an estimated A$25 billion. In August 2008, Diabetes Australia’s estimation more than doubled to $58 billion, this time taking into account not just health care but job productivity and other related quality of living costs.In 2003, the number of Australians with type 2 diabetes rose to nearly a million for the first time. In addition, the number of type 2 diabetes patients who were diagnosed solely on their weight was calculated at 242,000 in 2007, a 137% increase in cases in the previous three years.