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Waist circumference is a commonly used measure of whether a person is of a healthy weight or not. In particular it provides a good estimate of body fat, and in conjunction with Body Mass Index can indicate a person's potential risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
In 2014-15 the average waist measurement for men aged 18 years and over was 97.5cm, while for women of the same age it was 87.5cm. Both averages are considerably above the measurements indicating increased risk (94cm and 80cm respectively), particularly for women.
More than half (58.8%) of all men aged 18 years and over had a waist circumference that put them at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, while two in three (65.4%) women had an increased level of risk.
Between 2007-08 and 2011-12 the proportions of men and women at increased risk rose, from 55.4% to 59.6% respectively for men, and 63.8% to 66.3% respectively for women. However, between 2011-12 and 2014-15 the proportions have remained stable. This corresponds with the slowing in recent years of the trend in increases in the proportion of Australians who are overweight or obese based on BMI. See Overweight and Obesity for more information.
The proportion of men and women with a waist circumference that puts them at risk of developing chronic diseases increases with age, with more than three-quarters of men and women aged 55 years and over at increased risk in 2014-15 (77.1% of men compared with 81.3% of women).
Footnote(s): (a) A waist measurement of 94cm or more for men and 80cm or more for women.
Source(s): National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15
People living in Inner Regional and Outer Regional/Remote areas of Australia were more likely to have 'increased risk' waist measurements than people living in Major Cities. In Inner Regional Australia, 66.4% of men and 71.0% of women had a waist circumference that put them at increased risk of developing chronic diseases, similar to men and women in Outer Regional/Remote areas (67.7% and 71.7% respectively). In Major Cities, 55.7% of men and 63.1% of women had a waist circumference that put them at increased risk.
People living in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia were more likely to have 'increased risk' than people living in the least disadvantaged areas. For men, 60.7% in the most disadvantaged areas of Australia were at increased risk of developing chronic diseases, compared with 55.4% in the least disadvantaged areas. A similar pattern was evident for women, with 69.1% in the most disadvantaged areas being at increased risk, compared with 59.6% in the least disadvantaged areas.
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