Obesity: A growing problem

Obesity in Australia continues to be a significant issue, with serious impacts on general health and wellbeing as well as quality of life.

A recent report from the National Health Performance Authority (NHPA ) found 10.8 million adults in Australia were either overweight or obese during the 2011-12 period (a total of 63 per cent). This figure marks a rapid increase from 1989, when the proportion was at 44 per cent.1

The number of adults who were overweight or obese tended to vary across different areas, with 49 per cent in Eastern Sydney falling into this category compared to 79 per cent in Western NSW . However, every obese adult faces significantly higher health costs, with the report finding these expenses cost 30 per cent more compared to those faced by people with a healthier body weight.

Obesity can have a variety of harmful effects on health and wellbeing. Secondary impacts such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases continue to affect more and more Australians.

Research from Monash University shows Australians over the age of 15 with heart, stroke or vascular diseases were much more likely to be overweight or obese than those without these health issues (65 per cent compared to 51 per cent).2

Additionally, health disorders such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in children were found to be linked directly to childhood obesity.

With that in mind, it’s important to consider how healthy eating, nutrition and an active lifestyle can benefit your physical wellbeing and aid in preventing obesity. If you’re wondering where to start, these health tips can help.

What is obesity?

The Australian government’s Department of Health defines overweight and obesity by using the Body Mass Index (BMI). An individual’s BMI is calculated by dividing their weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.

According to the department, a BMI of 25 or more signals overweight status while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more.3

Staying healthy

If you’re wondering how to lose weight or maintain a healthier lifestyle, the key lies in balancing physical activity with nutritious eating habits.

The National Health and Medical Research Council along with the Department of Health and Ageing have compiled a guide to healthy eating that Australians can follow. It recommends getting most of your energy from grain and high fibre foods such as wheat flakes and couscous, and leafy green vegetables and legumes or beans.

Lean meats and poultry, dairy products and fruit should also make up significant portions of a healthy diet, while fast foods, alcohol and sugar should be limited.

The Department of Health recommends Australian adults to undertake at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. This can be as simple as going for a brisk walk around your local neighbourhood, going for a swim or a workout at the gym.

If you would like extra support in reaching your healthy weight goals, health insurance cover can offer valuable extras such as access to a nutritionist or dietician to help you manage your weight.

Some extras will even cover memberships in gyms or health programs, so you can have the support you need to incorporate healthier habits into your lifestyle.

  1. Healthy Communities: Overweight and obesity rates across Australia, 2011–12, In Focus report, National Health Performance Authority 2013 [PDF, 5 pages, 4.6 MB]
  2. Obesity in Australia, Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute
  3. About Overweight and Obesity, Department of Health, Commonwealth of Australia

These articles are provided as reference material to allow more informed decision making, but are not intended as being a complete source of information on any topic. All readers should make their own independent analysis on the topic to make sure they have considered the aspects that are important to them.