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4338.0 - Profiles of Health, Australia, 2011-13  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/06/2013  First Issue
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OVERWEIGHT AND OBESITY

Being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of developing long-term health conditions including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Being underweight can also be a health risk factor for some people. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a common measure for defining whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese.

    Data source and definitions

    In the Australian Health Survey, measured height and weight were collected to determine a person's BMI. For information on how BMI is calculated see Body Mass Index in the Glossary.

    BMI was only calculated for persons for whom height and weight were measured. For Australia in 2011-12, 83.5% of persons aged 2 years and over had their height and weight measured. This comprises 80.5% of children aged 2-17 who had their height and weight measured, and 84.3% of persons 18 years and over who had their height and weight measured. The results below are based on this measured population only.

    Adults were classified as being overweight if their BMI was greater than 25.00 but less than 29.99. Adults were classified as being obese if their BMI was 30.00 or more. While the formula to calculate BMI scores was the same for adults and children, the classification of children's BMI was different to that of persons aged 18 years and over, and took into account individual age and sex. BMI cut-off ranges for children 2 to 17 years of age are included in Appendix 4 of Australian Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2011-13 (cat. no. 4363.0.55.001).

In 2011-12, 62.8% of Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese, comprised of 35.3% overweight and 27.5% obese. A further 35.5% were of normal weight and 1.7% were underweight.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity has increased in Australia over time, from 56.3% in 1995 and 61.2% in 2007–08.

Overweight and obesity varies with age, with 74.9% of people aged 65-74 years being overweight or obese, compared with 36.4% of people aged 18-24 years.

In 2011-12, more men were overweight or obese than women (69.7% compared with 55.7%). However, looking at only those persons who were obese, rates are the same for men and women (both 27.5%). The proportion of people who are obese has increased across all age groups over time, up from 18.7% in 1995 to 27.5% in 2011-12.

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who were obese(a), 1995 to 2011-12

Footnote(s): (a) Based on Body Mass Index for persons whose height and weight was measured.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12


The increase in the proportion of people who are overweight or obese is being driven by a general increase in weight and BMI over time. The following graph compares the distribution of BMI scores for people aged 18 years and over between 1995 and 2011-12. This graph shows that not only is there a greater proportion of people who are overweight and obese since 1995, but also that there has been an increase in the proportion of people with much higher BMI scores. For example, in 1995 5.0% of persons aged 18 years and over had a BMI of 35 and over, where as in 2011-12 the corresponding proportion was 9.6%.

Between 1995 and 2011-12, the average adult man's weight increased by 3.6kg, while the average adult woman's weight increased by 4.0kg.

Persons aged 18 years & over - Body Mass Index scores(a), 1995 & 2011-12
Image: Persons aged 18 years and over, Body Mass Index scores for 1995 and 2011-12
Footnote(s): (a) Based on Body Mass Index for persons whose height and weight was measured.
Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12

In 2011-12, men living in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas of Australia were more likely to be overweight or obese (74.4%) compared with men living in major cities (67.7%). This pattern was also consistent for women, with women living in inner regional, outer regional and remote areas more likely to be overweight or obese (63.2%) than women living in major cities (52.5%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who were overweight or obese by remoteness by sex(a), 2011-12

Footnote(s): (a) Based on Body Mass Index for persons whose height and weight was measured.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12


Looking at the level of disadvantage by sex showed that proportionally more women living in areas of most disadvantage were overweight or obese (63.8%) compared with women living in areas of least disadvantage (47.7%). Interestingly, this pattern was not observed for men, with similar overweight or obese rates for men living in areas of most disadvantage (69.0%) and those living in areas of least disadvantage (68.6%).

Graph Image for Persons aged 18 years and over - Proportion who were overweight or obese by levels of disadvantage, 2011-12(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Based on the 2006 Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage. A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates an area with relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates an area with a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general. See Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage in the Glossary.

Source(s): Australian Health Survey: Updated Results, 2011-12


Note that BMI was only calculated for persons for whom height and weight was measured. In 2011-12, 15.7% of persons aged 18 years and over did not have their height and/or weight measured.

Previous results for overweight and obesity

National Health Survey 2007–08, 2004–05, 2001, 1995.
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, 2004-05

Other articles on overweight and obesity

Australian Social Trends, Dec 2009: Smoking, risky drinking and obesity
The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008: Overweight/obesity
Overweight and Obesity in Adults in Australia: A Snapshot, 2007-08
Facts at your Fingertips: Health: Measuring Australians, 2007–08
Australian Social Trends, 2007: Overweight and Obesity
Overweight and Obesity in Adults, Australia, 2004-05
Australian Social Trends, 2003: Risk Factors


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