Relative body weight is important both as an indicator of past and current health and as a predictor of future health. Being underweight may reflect poor nutrition or illness, and under-nutrition is still a significant health problem, particularly for children in some Indigenous communities (NHMRC 2000c). Obesity, on the other hand, is a risk factor for kidney disease, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions (AIHW 2004b).
Calculations of body weight in the 2001 NHS were based on reported measurements of height and weight. After adjusting for age differences between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations and survey non-response, Indigenous people aged 15 years or over were 1.3 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be overweight. For both males and females, a higher proportion of Indigenous than non-Indigenous Australians were classified as obese in every 10-year age group from 15-24 years to 55 years or over. The proportion of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people aged 18 years or over who were classified as obese increased between 1995 and 2001.
For more information on nutrition and body weight, see Chapter 8 in the 2003 edition of this report. New data will be available from the 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, due for release in 2006 (see Data Sources for further details).