Overweight and obesity

Obesity is related to a host of technological, social, economic and environmental changes including increases in sedentary activities, use of the motor car for transport, decreases in physical activity and increases in consumption of high energy foods.

Being overweight or obese increases a person's risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal blood cholesterol levels, some cancers, high blood uric acid levels, breathlessness, sleep apnoea, impaired fertility, osteoarthritis of the knees and lower back pain. It also reduces quality of life with respect to social interaction, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and mental wellbeing. And evidence has shown that children and adolescents are more likely to become obese adults.

Population levels of overweight and obesity are currently a major health concern because of their significant health, social and economic impact. In Australia, the prevalence of being overweight and obese has been increasing over the last 20-30 years; with over 60% of adults and one in four children overweight or obese. Obesity is particularly prevalent among men and women in the most disadvantaged socioeconomic groups, people without post-school qualifications, Indigenous Australians and among many people born overseas.

Data from the 2004–2005 National Health Survey indicate that nearly half of all Australian adults (based on self-reported height and weight) were overweight or obese in 2004– 2005: around 7.4 million adults were overweight or obese (over one-third of these were obese) and close to three in every 10 Australian children and young people were overweight or obese.

The following article highlights the current picture of childhood and adolescent obesity in response to recent reports about the magnitude of the problem: Gill TP, Baur LA, Bauman AE, et al. (2009) Childhood obesity in Australia remains a widespread health concern that warrants population-wide prevention programs. Med J Aust; 190 (3): 146-148. [View article]

To find out more about obesity and health, please follow the links below to some useful websites.

NSW Health: Population Health Survey Reports

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

The Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society

Australasian Childhood and Adolescent Obesity Research Network