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Trends: Adults

Trends in Australian adults

Last updated 06-06-2019

Two-thirds of Australian adults are now overweight (35.6%) or obese (31.3%). Higher rates of men are overweight compared to women, while similar proportions of men and women are obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity is rising in Australian adults, driven mainly by increased rates of obesity.

Key Evidence

01

67.0% of Australian adults are overweight or obese

02

42.2% of Australian men aged 65 to 74 years are obese

03

72.2% of adults in outer regional and remote Australia are overweight or obese

04

Severe obesity has risen from 4.9% to 9.4% among Australian adults over the past 20 years

Australian adults by weight status

In 2017-18, 67.0% of Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese, comprised of 35.6% overweight and 31.3% obese. A further 31.7% were of normal weight and 1.3% were underweight.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018.

Underweight Normal weight Overweight Obese

Overweight and obesity by gender

About three quarters (74.5%) of Australian men were overweight or obese in 2017-18, compared with 59.7% of women. More men (42.0%) than women (29.6%) were overweight but not obese. Similar proportions of men (32.5%) and women (30.2%) were obese.1

Weight status: men

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018. Supplementary data table 8.3

Note: 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.

Underweight Normal weight Overweight Obese

Weight status: women

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018. Supplementary data table 8.3

Note: 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.

Underweight Normal weight Overweight Obese

Overweight and obesity by age and gender

Rates of overweight and obesity rose steadily by age group in 2017-18, peaking for men at age 55 to 64 years (83.6%) and for women at 65 to 74 years (73.3%). More than half of 18 to 24 year-old men are overweight or obese.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018. Supplementary data table 8.3

Note: 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. Males overweight aged 85 years and over: Proportion has a high margin of error and should be used with caution.

Overweight Obese

Overweight and obesity by location

Overweight and obesity was higher for Australian adults living outside major cities in 2017-18. In major cities, 65.0% of Australians were overweight or obese, compared to 72.4% in inner regional Australia and 72.2% in outer regional and remote Australia.

Overweight and obesity is highest outside major cities

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018.

Overweight or obese

Overweight and obesity trends

After adjusting for age, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Australian adults rose from 57.2% in 1995 to 66.4% in 2017-18. The trend was mainly driven by a rise in the prevalence of obese adults, from 19.1% to 30.8%. The prevalence of adults who were overweight but not obese remained similar, from 38.1% in 1995 to 35.6% in 2017-18.23

This animation shows how quickly obesity rates have increased in Australia.

Obesity on the rise

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia. 2017, Supplementary table 8 AND Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018, Table 1.3

Note: Prevalence estimates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population

Overweight but not obese Obese Overweight or obese

Severe obesity trends

The prevalence of severe obesity has risen over the past 20 years, with the age-standardised prevalence of class II and class III obesity (body mass index of 35+) among Australian adults almost doubling, from 4.9% to 9.4% between 1995 and 2014-15.

Severe obesity on the rise

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia. 2017. p19.

Note: Prevalence estimates are age-standardised to the 2001 Australian population

Males Females Persons

References

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/
2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. A picture of overweight and obesity in Australia. 2017. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 4364.0.55.001 - National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18. 2018. Table 1.3. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/