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Overweight and obesity

Contains key statistics and information about overweight and obesity trends and its prevalence in Australia, including state and territory findings

Reference period
2017-18
Released
12/12/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • 67% of adults were overweight or obese, an increase from 63% in 2014-15.
  • A greater proportion of men were overweight or obese than women (75% compared with 60%).
  • 25% of children were overweight or obese.

Overweight and obesity

Being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of developing long-term health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, while being underweight can also be a health risk factor for some people.

Key findings

  • In 2017-18, two thirds (67.0%) of Australian adults were overweight or obese (12.5 million people), an increase from 63.4% in 2014-15.
  • This change was driven by the increase in the proportion of adults categorised as obese, which increased from 27.9% to 31.3%
  • There was a large increase for those aged 18-24 years, with 38.9% overweight or obese in 2014-15 compared with 46.0% in 2017-18.
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese than women (74.5% and 59.7% respectively).
  • Almost one quarter (24.9%) of children aged 5-17 years were overweight or obese in 2017-18 (17% overweight and 8.1% obese). The rates were similar for boys and girls and this has remained stable over the previous ten years.
     

Definitions

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a commonly used measure for defining whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese. In the National Health Survey, respondents’ height and weight were measured to determine their BMI score. In the 2017-18 NHS, respondents were also asked to self report their height and weight.

In 2017-18, 33.8% of respondents aged 18 years and over did not have their height and or weight measured. For these people, height and weight were imputed using a range of information including their self reported height and weight. For more information see Appendix 2: Physical measurements in the 2017-18 National Health Survey.

Another method used to measure whether a person is a healthy weight or not is waist circumference. See Waist circumference for more information.


In 2017-18, two thirds (67.0%) of Australians 18 years and over were overweight or obese. Slightly more than a third (35.6%) were overweight and slightly less than a third were obese (31.3%). Just under one third (31.7%) were within the healthy weight range and one percent (1.3%) were underweight.

Since 2014-15, the proportion of adults aged 18 years and over who were overweight or obese increased from 63.4% to 67.0%. This change was driven by the increase in the proportion of adults categorised as obese, which increased from 27.9% to 31.3%. Since 1995, the proportion of adults aged 18 years and over who were overweight or obese increased from 56.2% to 67.0%, which was also associated with an increase in the proportion of people who were obese, which increased from 18.7% in 1995 to 31.3% in 2017-18. The proportion of adults who were overweight remained steady throughout this time.

In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese than women (74.5% and 59.7% respectively). This difference was greatest in the overweight category, with 42.0% of men compared with 29.6% of women). The proportion of men who were in the obese category was also higher than for women but the gap was much narrower (32.5% compared with 30.2%). Since 2014-15, the proportion of both men and women in the obese category increased. For men this changed from 28.4% to 32.5% and for women the increase was from 27.4% to 30.2%. The proportion of men and women in the overweight category has remained constant since 2014-15.

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In 2017-18, the proportion of adults aged 18 years and over who were overweight or obese in general increased with age. Less than half of those aged 18-24 years (46.0%) were overweight or obese. By age 35-44 years, this had increased to 68.7% and by the age of 65-74 years, the proportion had increased to almost four out of five (78.2%). However, there was a large increase for those aged 18-24 years, with 38.9% overweight or obese in 2014-15 compared with 46.0% in 2017-18.

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Persons aged 18 years and over - proportion of overweight or obese, 1995 to 2014-15

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In 2017-18, the proportion of adults aged 18 years and over who were overweight or obese increased with relative disadvantage. Seven in ten (71.8%) adults living in the areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) were overweight or obese in comparison to six in ten (62.6%) in the least disadvantaged (fifth quintile). This pattern remained relatively constant since 2014-15.

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  1. A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general. See Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage in the Glossary.
     

In 2017-18, adults aged 18 years and over living in Inner Regional, and Outer Regional and Remote Australia were more likely to be overweight or obese than those living in Major Cities (72.4% and 72.2% compared with 65.0% respectively). Again, this pattern was consistent with the results from 2014-15 (Inner Regional Australia: 69.2% and Outer Region and Remote Australia: 69.2%, Major Cities: 61.1%,).

In 2017-18, the states which saw increases in the proportion of adults aged 18 years and over that were overweight or obese were Victoria (increased from 63.3% to 68.3%), South Australia (increased from 65.8% to 69.7%), Western Australia (increased 60.3% to 66.7%) and Tasmania (increased from 67.5% to 70.9%).

Waist circumference

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.

Definitions

A waist measurement of 94cm or more for men or 80cm or more for women indicates that a person is at increased risk of developing chronic disease[1].

In 2017-18, 35.4% of respondents aged 18 years and over did not have their waist circumference measured. For these people, waist circumference was imputed. For more information see Appendix 2: Physical measurements in the 2017-18 National Health Survey.


In 2017-18, the average waist measurement for adult men was 98.0cm, and for women it was 87.9cm. Three out of five (59.6%) Australian men and two-thirds of Australian women (66.0%) had a measured waist circumference that put them at an increased risk of disease. The proportion of population at increased risk has remained stable since 2011-12.

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 2017-18 (76.8% of men compared with 80.3% of women).

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  1. A waist measurement of 94cm or more for men and 80cm or more for women.
     

Men and women in Regional and Remote areas of Australia were more likely to have waist measurements that put them at an increased risk than those in Major Cities of Australia. Around two thirds of men in Inner Regional (64.8%), Outer Regional (65.2%) and Remote Australia (66.7%) had waist measurements indicating increased risk, compared with less than three in five (57.5%) men in Major Cities. Seven in ten women in Inner Regional (72.0%), Outer Regional (71.5%) and Remote Australia (73.5%) had waist measurements indicating increased risk, compared with over six in ten (63.6%) women in Major Cities.

People living in the most disadvantaged areas were more likely to have waist measurements that put them at increased risk than those living in the least disadvantaged areas. Close to two-thirds (62.8%) of men living in the most disadvantaged areas had waist measurements indicating increased risk, compared with just over half (54.3%) of men living in least disadvantaged areas. Similarly, women living in the most disadvantaged areas were more likely to have an increased risk waist measurement compared with those living in areas of least disadvantage (72.5% compared with 58.7%).

State and territory findings

Adults (18 years and over)

  • In 2017-18, 67.0% of Australian adults were overweight or obese. 
  • Tasmania had the highest rate of adults who were overweight or obese (70.9%), compared with Australian Capital Territory (64.0%) who had the lowest. 
  • In 2017-18, the states which saw increases in the proportion of adults that were overweight or obese from 2014-15 were Victoria (increased from 63.3% to 68.3%), South Australia (increased from 65.8% to 69.7%), and Tasmania (increased from 67.5% to 70.9%). 
  • Across all States and Territories, men were more likely than women to be overweight or obese. Tasmania had the highest proportion of men overweight or obese (76.7%) while Australian Capital Territory had the lowest (70.5%). For women, Tasmania also had the highest proportion overweight or obese (65.3%) compared with New South Wales (58.0%), Northern Territory (57.5%) and the Australian Capital Territory which had similarly low rates (57.2%). 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese in general increased with age.
     

Children (2-17 years)

  • In 2017-18, almost one quarter (24.9%) of Australian children were overweight or obese (17% overweight and 8.1% obese). 
  • Across all States and Territories, the proportion of children (boys and girls) who were overweight or obese has remained stable since 2014-15, with the exception of Victoria where this rate has declined since 2014-15 from 28.6% to 22.6%. 
  • In 2017-18, children in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory had the highest rates of overweight or obese at 28.7% and 28.6% respectively. The lowest rate was 22.6% in Victoria.
     

New South Wales

Adults (18 years and over)

  • Around two thirds (65.9%) of adults were overweight or obese. Slightly more than a third (34.9%) were overweight and slightly less than a third were obese (30.8%). Just under one third (32.5%) were within the healthy weight range and 1.5% were underweight. 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese has increased from 61.1% in 2007-08 and 2011-12 to 65.9% in 2017-18. 
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men were overweight or obese than women (73.9% and 58.0% respectively). While the proportions have remained constant since 2014-15 (71.9% and 55.2% respectively), there has been an increase since 2011-12 (68.3% and 53.7% respectively). 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese in general increased with age. Less than half of those aged 18-24 years (43.8%) were overweight or obese. By age 35-44 years, this had increased to 68.8% and by the age of 65-74 years, the proportion had increased to just over three quarters (76.9%). 
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • One quarter (25.7%) of children were overweight or obese, with the rates similar for boys and girls and remaining similar since 2014-15. 
  • More children were overweight (17.6%) than obese (7.9%).
     

Victoria

Adults (18 years and over)

  • Two thirds (68.3%) of adults were overweight or obese. More than a third (36.6%) were overweight and slightly less than a third were obese (31.8%). Just under one third (30.6%) were within the healthy weight range and 1.0% were underweight. 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese has increased since 2014-15 (63.3%). 
  • In particular, the proportion of younger adults who were overweight or obese has increased from 40.0% to 50.0% for 18-24 year olds and 51.3% to 60.2% for 25-34 year olds between 2014-15 and 2017-18. 
  • A greater proportion of men were overweight or obese than women (75.9% and 60.7% respectively). These proportions have increased since 2014-15 (70.4% and 56.5% respectively) and 2011-12 (67.7% and 54.3% respectively). 
  • This change was driven by the increase in the proportion categorised as obese, particularly by men where the proportion has increased from 24.3% in 2011-12 to 33.5% in 2017-18, while the proportion of women who were obese has increased from 26.8% in 2014-15 to 30.2% in 2017-18. 
  • Seven in ten (73.7%) adults living in the areas of most disadvantage (first quintile) were overweight or obese in comparison to six in ten (63.7%) in the least disadvantaged (fifth quintile).
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • More than one fifth (22.6%) of children were overweight or obese (14.9% overweight and 8.0% obese). This rate has declined since 2014-15 where 28.6% of children were overweight or obese.
     

Queensland

Adults (18 years and over)

  • In 2017-18, around two thirds (65.9%) of adults were overweight or obese. One third (33.5%) of adults were categorised as overweight and almost one third (32.4%) were categorised as obese. Just under one third (32.3%) were within the healthy weight range and 1.8% were underweight. 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese in 2017-18 has increased since 2007-08 (60.8%), however, has remained similar to 2014-15 (63.6%) and 2011-12 (64.9%). 
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men were overweight or obese compared with women (72.9% and 59.3% respectively). These proportions have remained constant since 2014-15 (70.7% and 56.6% respectively) and 2011-12 (72.7% and 57.1% respectively). 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese in general increased with age. Two in five (41.2%) young adults aged 18-24 years were overweight or obese. By age 35-44 years, two thirds (67.5%) adults were overweight or obese and by the age of 65-74 years, the proportion had increased to just over three quarters (76.7%).
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • Around one quarter (24.5%) of children were overweight or obese (15.4% overweight and 8.7% obese) in 2017-18, these rates were similar for girls and boys and have remained similar since 2014-15.
     

South Australia

Adults (18 years and over)

  • Over two thirds (69.7%) of adults were overweight or obese. More than one third of all adults (37.6%) were overweight and around a third were obese (32.6%). Under one third (29.2%) were within the healthy weight range and 0.9% were underweight. 
  • Since 2014-15, the proportion of adults who were overweight or obese has increased from 65.8% to 69.7%. 
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men were overweight or obese than women (75.3% and 64.6% respectively). 
  • Adults living in Outer Regional and Remote Australia were more likely to be overweight or obese than those living in Major Cities (75.6% and 68.5% respectively).
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • One quarter (25.6%) of children were overweight or obese (18.9% overweight and 7.5% obese). The rates were similar for boys and girls and have remained similar since 2014-15.
     

South Australia had a higher rate of adults who were overweight or obese compared with Australia (69.7% compared with 67.0%). The rate for children who were overweight or obese was similar to the national rate.

Western Australia

Adults (18 years and over)

  • Two thirds (66.7%) of adults were overweight or obese. More than one third (37.9%) were overweight and over a quarter were obese (28.7%). Just under one third (32.3%) were within the healthy weight range and 1.1% were underweight. 
  • Men were more likely than women to be overweight or obese (73.6% compared with 59.3%). 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese generally increases with age. Over half (57.4%) of adults aged 25-34 years were overweight or obese and by age 65 years and over, this had increased to three quarters (76.8%).
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • Around one quarter (24.7%) of children were overweight or obese (18.6% overweight and 7.2% obese). The rates were similar for boys and girls.
     

Western Australia had a lower rate of adults who were obese compared with Australia (28.7% compared with 31.3%). The rates for children were similar to the national rate.

Tasmania

Adults (18 years and over)

  • In 2017-18, more than two thirds (70.9%) of adults were overweight or obese, with more than one third (36.0%) of adults categorised as overweight and over one third (34.8%) categorised as obese. 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese in 2017-18 has increased since 2014-15 (67.5%). 
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men were overweight or obese than women (76.7% compared with 65.3%).
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • More than one quarter (28.7%) of children were overweight or obese in 2017-18, with 16.9% of children categorised as overweight and 11.4% categorised as obese. 
  • The rates of boys and girls who were overweight or obese were similar (29.0% and 27.7% respectively) and have remained constant since 2014-15. 
     

Tasmania had a higher rate of adults who were overweight or obese compared with Australia (70.9% compared with 67.0%) driven by a higher rate of obesity (34.8% compared with 31.3%); the rate for children was similar to the national rate.

Northern Territory

Adults (18 years and over)

  • Around two thirds (65.2%) of adults were overweight or obese. Of these, slightly more than a third (35.1%) were overweight and under a third were obese (29.8%). One third (33.4%) were within the healthy weight range and 1.6% were underweight. 
  • The proportion of adults who were overweight or obese has remained similar to rates observed in 2014-15 (64.3%) and 2011-12 (62.1%). 
  • In 2017-18, a greater proportion of men were overweight or obese than women (71.7% and 57.7% respectively). The proportions for both men and women have remained similar since 2011-12 (68.1% and 55.6% respectively).
     
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Children (2-17 years)

  • One quarter (26.4%) of children were overweight or obese (16.9% overweight and 8.2% obese). The rates were similar for boys and girls and rates have remained similar since 2014-15.
     

Australian Capital Territory

Adults (18 years and over)

  • In 2017-18, almost two thirds (64.0%) of adults were overweight or obese. Over one third (37.6%) of adults were overweight and over one quarter (26.4%) were obese. More than one third (35.1%) were within the healthy weight range and 1.4% were underweight. 
  • Although the proportion of adults who were overweight or obese has increased since 2007-08 where 57.8% of adults were overweight or obese, it has remained similar to 2014-15 (63.5%). 
  • Men were more likely than women to be overweight or obese (70.5% compared with 57.2%).
     
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Children (aged 2-17 years)

  • More than one quarter (28.6%) of children were overweight or obese, with the rates in 2017-18 being similar for boys and girls. These rates have remained unchanged since 2014-15. 
  • In 2017-18, 22.1% of children were categorised as overweight and 7.4% were categorised as obese.
     

The Australian Capital Territory had a lower rate of adults who were obese compared with Australia (26.4% compared with 31.3%) and higher rates of adults in the healthy weight range (35.1% compared with 31.7%). The rates for children were similar to the national rate.

Data downloads

Table 1: Summary health characteristics, 2001 to 2017–18 - Australia

Table 2: Summary health characteristics, 2017–18 - states and territories

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 6: Health risk factors by population characteristics - Australia

Table 8: Body Mass Index, waist circumference, height and weight - Australia

Table 16: Children's Body Mass Index, waist circumference, height and weight - Australia

Table 20: New South Wales

Table 21: Victoria

Table 22: Queensland

Table 23: South Australia

Table 24: Western Australia

Table 25: Tasmania

Table 26: Northern Territory

Table 27: Australian Capital Territory

Table 32: Measured and self-reported Body Mass Index - Australia

All data cubes

Endnotes

Show all

  1. World Health Organisation, Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO Consultation, 2000, https://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/obesity/WHO_TRS_894/en/; last accessed 13/11/2018

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.55.001.