ABS health stats show Aussie waistlines continue to expand

ALMOST two-thirds of all Australian adults are overweight or obese, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show.

The alarming statistic was contained in the first results from the Australian Health Survey, which was released by the ABS on Monday.

ABS first assistant statistician Dr Paul Jelfs said the rise in people classified as obese or overweight continued a worrying trend.

"Compared to four years ago the proportion of overweight adult Australians has increased by more than two percentage points, meaning 63% of the population are now classified as overweight or obese," Dr Jelfs said.

Men were more likely to be overweight or obese (70%) than women (56%).

And while a quarter of all Australian children aged 5-17 are overweight or obese, that number has remained stable since the last health survey in 2007-08.

Opposition rural health services spokesman Andrew Laming said the prevalence of overweight or obese people was far greater in rural and regional Australia due to larger indigenous populations, lower incomes and distance and access to health services.

While the health survey results did contain a regional breakdown, this discrepancy is supported by a number of previous studies and statistics.

"Obesity is a disease of poverty and other factors," Mr Laming said.

"We need to make sure there is a basic package of health services that are available to Australians regardless of where they live.

"And we need to identify the health services that are the most effective at keeping people healthy."

Dr Jelfs described the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey as the largest checkup on the nation's health ever undertaken.

But the news was not all bad, with the results of the survey showing we are drinking and smoking less.

Rates of daily smoking among adults have dropped to 2.8 million people (16.3%) in the latest survey, down from 18.9% in 2007-08 and 22.4% in 2001.

"Smoking rates are down across all age groups, particularly for people aged under 45," Dr Jelfs said.

"Men are still more likely to smoke than women - the rate is about one in five men compared to one in seven women.

"On a state basis, there were more smokers in the Northern Territory (23.9%) and Tasmania (21.8%) and the fewest in the Australian Capital Territory (13.4%)."

Adults consuming an average of more than two standard drinks per day decreased to 19.5% in the health survey from 20.9% four years ago.

The health survey also shows Australians are getting taller and heavier.

Since 1995, the average height for men increased 0.8cm for men and 0.4cm for women. In terms of weight, men are on average 3.9kg heavier since 1995 and women 4.1kg.

The average man in 2011-12 was 1.76m tall and tipped the scales at 85.9kg, while the average woman was 1.62m tall and weighed 71.1kg.

Results from the Australian Health Survey will be released progressively over the next 18 months.


2011-13 Australian Health Survey
2011-13 Australian Health Survey APN

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