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Trends: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

Last updated 06-06-2019

A higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are obese, compared to non-Indigenous children. Few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children meet dietary recommendations for intake of healthy foods, while physical activity varies across non-remote and remote areas.

Key Evidence

01

17.9% of Indigenous boys aged 2 to 14 years are overweight, compared to 18.7% of non-Indigenous boys

02

26.1% of Indigenous boys aged 10 to 14 years are overweight and 12.5% are obese

03

42.1% of total daily energy intake for Indigenous boys aged 4 to 8 years is from discretionary foods

04

63.9% of Indigenous boys in non-remote areas aged 5 to 8 years met physical activity guidelines

Overweight and obese children 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 9.3.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

In 2012–13, almost one in three (29.7%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 2–14 years were either overweight (19.6%) or obese (10.2%). The proportion of Indigenous children aged 2–14 years who were overweight/obese was higher than the rate for non-Indigenous children (25.0%).1 Indigenous girls were more likely to be overweight and obese compared to Indigenous boys.

Overweight and obese children by age and gender

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4727.0.55.006 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012–13. 2014. Table 9.3 and 8.3

Note: Obese indigenous boys 2-4 years, underweight non-indigenous boys 2-4 years and obese indigenous girls 2-4 years proportion has a relative standard error between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution

Boys: Overweight Boys: Obese Girls: Overweight Girls: Obese

The proportion of indigenous boys who were overweight and obese increased with age in 2012-13. For indigenous girls, rates of obesity peaked at age 5-9 years.1

Diet

Few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children met dietary recommendations for intake of healthy foods in 2011-13,2 and a high percentage of daily energy intake was from discretionary food.2

Food group consumption by serve

In 2011-13, children’s consumption of core foods from the five food groups varied by Indigenous status and age group.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018, Supplementary tables S9 to S13 AND Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Nutrition across the life stages. Canberra, Australia 2018, Supplementary table S17
National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) 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 and food group Serves per day: Indigenous Serves per day: Non-indigenous Recommended serves per day: Boys Recommended serves per day: Girls
Vegetables
2-3 years 1.2 1.2 2.5 2.5
4-8 years 0.9 1.5 4.5 4.5
9-11 years 1.4 1.9 5 5
12-13 years 1.9 1.8 5.5 5
14-18 years 1.8 2.1 5.5 5
Fruit
2-3 years 1.2 1.8 1 1
4-8 years 1.6 1.8 1.5 1.5
9-11 years 1.5 1.8 2 2
12-13 years 1.6 1.6 2 2
14-18 years 1.7 1.5 2 2
Grains
2-3 years 3.1 3.2 4 4
4-8 years 4.1 4.1 4 4
9-11 years 4.6 4.6 5 4
12-13 years 5.4 4.8 6 5
14-18 years 1.7 1.5 7 7
Lean meats + alternatives
2-3 years 0.7 0.8 1 1
4-8 years 0.9 0.8 1.5 1.5
9-11 years 1.3 1.1 2.5 2.5
12-13 years 1.1 1.3 2.5 2.5
14-18 years 1.7 1.5 2.5 2.5
Meat, yoghurt, cheese + alternatives
2-3 years 2.3 1.9 1.5 1.5
4-8 years 1.3 1.5 2 1.5
9-11 yearss 1.4 1.5 2.5 3
12-13 years 1.0 1.7 3.5 3.5
14-18 years 1.1 1.5 3.5 3.5

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.

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Discretionary food makes a greater contribution to the total energy intake of Indigenous children, compared to non-Indigenous children. 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 20

Indigenous Non-indigenous

Intake of added sugars was higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children than non-Indigenous children in 2011-13.2 Added sugars are those added to foods by manufacturers or consumers, excluding those naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices.

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 9.3.

The physical activity recommendation for children 5-17 years is 60 minutes or more per day.

Met recommendation Indigenous Met recommendation Non-indigenous

Almost half (47.7%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-17 years living in non-remote areas met the recommendation of 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day in 2012-13, compared to about one-third (35.4%) of non-Indigenous children.1

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. Table 18.3.

Less than 60 minutes More than 60 minutes Did no physical activity

In remote areas, 81.7% of children aged 5-17 years did more than the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity on the day prior to interview in 2012-13, 14.2% did less than 60 minutes and 4.1% did no physical activity.1

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. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports