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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - Summary report

Overweight and obesity

Worldwide, rates of overweight and obesity have increased substantially over the past 4 decades, due to diets higher in saturated fats and sugar, and to people being less active (World Health Organization 2020). Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and kidney disease – health conditions that often occur together (AIHW 2015a, 2022c).

A poorer quality of diet – lacking in important nutrients and high in processed food – can contribute to obesity. Diet can be affected by what foods are affordable and readily available. For example, fresh fruit and vegetables can be difficult to access by people with low incomes and in more remote areas (Thurber et al. 2017).

In 2018–19, based on voluntary physical measurements, 71% (381,800) of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over were overweight (BMI 25.0­­ - 29.9) or obese (BMI ≥0). After adjusting for differences in the age structure between the two populations, Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over were less likely than non-Indigenous Australians to be overweight (29% and 35%, respectively) but 1.5 times as likely to be obese (46% and 30%, respectively).

Across remoteness areas, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who were overweight or obese ranged from 62% in Very remote areas to 76% in Inner regional areas (Figure 5.8).

Figure 5.8: Proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over who were overweight or obese, by remoteness area, 2018–19

This column chart shows that, by remoteness, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who were overweight or obese ranged from 62% (in Very remote areas) to 76% (in Inner regional areas).

Note: In the 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey Body Mass Index was derived from measured height and weight.

Source: Measure 2.22, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2018–19.

In 2018–19, 72% of Indigenous females and 71% of Indigenous males were overweight or obese. A higher proportion of Indigenous females were obese than Indigenous males (45% compared with 40%, respectively). The proportion of Indigenous Australians who had a BMI indicating overweight or obesity increased with age, ranging from 42% for those aged 15–17 to 80%–82% for those aged 35 and over (ABS 2019) (Figure 5.9).

Figure 5.9: Proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over who were overweight or obese, by sex, and by age group, 2018–19

The first chart shows between 2018-19 the proportion of Indigenous Australians who were obese was higher for Indigenous females compared with Indigenous males (45% compared with 40%). The proportion of Indigenous Australians who were overweight was higher for Indigenous males than females. The second chart shows that the proportion of Indigenous Australians who overweight was ranged from 42% for those aged 15–17 to 80%–82% for those aged 35 and over.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2018–19.

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