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Trends: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults

Last updated 06-06-2019

A higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are overweight and obese, compared to non-Indigenous Australians. Few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people meet dietary recommendations for intake of healthy foods.

Key Evidence

01

72.4% of Indigenous adults are overweight or obese, compared to 62.6% non-Indigenous (age-standardised)

02

45.7% of Indigenous women are obese, compared to 26.9% non-Indigenous (age-standardised)

03

42.4% of total daily energy intake for Indigenous 19 to 30-year-olds is from discretionary foods

04

35% of Indigenous adults in non-remote areas are sufficiently active for health

Overweight and obesity by indigenous status

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.006 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012–13. 2014. Table 8.3.

Proportions have been age standardised to the 2001 Australian Estimated Resident Population to account for differences in the age structure of the two populations.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

In 2012–13, more than two-thirds (72.4%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over were either overweight (29.9%) or obese (42.5%), when standardised for age to reflect differences in the age structure of the population. Indigenous adults were 1.2 times as likely to be overweight or obese as non-Indigenous people and 1.6 times as likely to be obese.1

Overweight and obesity by gender

In 2012-13, a similar proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and non-Indigenous women were overweight, but a higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were obese. When compared to non-Indigenous men, fewer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men were overweight but more were obese.1

Weight status: women

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.006 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012–13. 2014. Table 8.3.

Proportions have been age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Estimated Resident Population to account for differences in the age structure of the two populations.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Weight status: men

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.006 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012–13. 2014. Table 8.3.

Proportions have been age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Estimated Resident Population to account for differences in the age structure of the two populations.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Diet

In 2011-13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults consumed a higher percentage of daily energy intake from discretionary foods, compared to non-Indigenous adults.2

Food group consumption by serve

In 2011-13, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults consumed fewer average serves of core foods from the five food groups, compared to non-Indigenous adults.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018. Supplementary tables S14 and S15
National Health and Medical Research Council's 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend a minimum number of serves of fruit and vegetables each day, depending on a person's age and sex, to ensure good nutrition and health.

Age Serves per day: Indigenous Serves per day: Non-indigenous Recommended serves per day: men Recommended serves per day: women
Vegetables
19-50 years 2.1 2.9 6 5
51-70 years 2.4 3.2 5.5 5
Fruit
19-50 years 1 1.4 2 2
51-70 years 0.9 1.6 2 2
Grains
19-50 years 4.2 4.7 6 6
51-70 years 3.8 4.3 6 4
Lean meats + alternatives
19-50 years 1.9 2 3 2.5
51-70 years 1.7 1.9 2.5 2
Milk, yoghurt, cheese + alternatives
19-50 years 1.2 1.5 2.5 2.5
51-70 years 1.0 1.4 2.5 4

Percentage of total daily energy intake from discretionary food

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018. Supplementary table S17

Note: The Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary lists examples of discretionary choices as including: most sweet biscuits, cakes, desserts and pastries; processed meats and sausages; ice-cream; confectionery and chocolate; savoury pastries and pies; commercial burgers; commercially fried foods; potato chips, crisps and other fatty and/or salty snack foods; cream, butter and spreads which are high in saturated fats; sugar sweetened soft drinks and cordials, sports and energy drinks and alcoholic drinks.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Discretionary food makes a greater contribution to the total energy intake of Indigenous adults, compared to non-Indigenous adults. Discretionary foods are high in energy but low in nutrients, and are not needed to meet nutrient requirements.

Proportion of energy from added sugars

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018, Supplementary table S20

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Intake of added sugars was higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults than non-Indigenous Australians in 2011-13.3 Added sugars are those added to foods by manufacturers or consumers, excluding those naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.

Physical activity

About one-third (35.0%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults living in non-remote areas were sufficiently active for health in 2012-13. When compared with the non-Indigenous adult population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults were less likely to be sufficiently active for health and less likely to be participating in any physical activity, but also spent less time on sedentary behaviour for work, leisure or travel.1

This graph shows the percentage of adults who participated in sufficient physical activity in the previous week.

Physical activity in non-remote areas

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.004 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2012-13. 2014. Table 1.4

Note: Proportions have been age-standardised to the 2001 Australian Estimated Resident population to account for differences in the age structure of the two populations. Sufficient physical activity is defined as 150 minutes from five or more sessions per week using walking for fitness/transport, moderate and/or vigorous physical activity.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Physical activity in remote areas

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.004 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2012-13. 2014.

No activity Less than 30 minutes More than 30 minutes

In remote areas, one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults (20.9%) did not participate in any physical activity on the day prior to interview in 2012-13, one in five (20.2%) did less than 30 minutes of physical activity and 55.1% did more than 30 minutes of physical activity.

References

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.006 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012–13. 2014. Table 8.3. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018. Supplementary tables S14 and S15. https://www.aihw.gov.au/report...
3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports