How Many Australians Are Obese?

By Victoria Simpson on July 2 2020 in Society

Image credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com
  • According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey, two thirds (67%) of adults in Australia in 2017-18 were overweight or obese.
  • Approximately 7,750,000 individuals in Australia are obese, adding up to over 30% of the population.
  • According to the World Health Organization, over 820 million people went hungry in 2018, adding up to 1 in 9 people in the world being hungry.

Sadly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are currently hordes of people on Earth who do not have enough to eat. Over 820 million people went hungry in 2018. This adds up to 1 in 9 people in the world being consistently short of food, and often wondering where thier next meal will come from. Global health officials are said to be working towards zero hunger by 2030, but will we get there? That remains to be seen. 

Strangely enough, coupled with hunger is another extreme on our planet: rising rates of obesity. The WHO states that in 2016, over 650 million people in the world were counted as being obese. A person who is obese is defined as someone who is grossly fat or overweight, and who has a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher. (A BMI of this level does not apply to everyone, such as those who are pregnant or body builders, but for the average person it is a benchmark).  

Shockingly, the number of people in the world who are obese has tripled since 1975, and the majority of them live in countries where more people die from weighing too much than from not weighing enough. Australia is one of these. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey, two thirds (67%) of adults in Australia in 2017-18 were overweight or obese. About one third of people in the country (31.3%) were obese which adds up to 7,750,000 individuals. 

What is causing people to consume too much food, and not get enough exercise? Some of it has to do with advertising, and the easy accessibility of unhealthy food. 

Why People Are Obese

Image credit: Jackson Stock Photography/Shutterstock.com

As The Conversation.com points out, many people are becoming more responsible as time goes by. In general, people are driving more safely, wearing more seat belts, drinking less alcohol, and smoking less. So why are we acquiring such bad eating habits? Many think the commercialization of food is to blame. In many countries, including Australia, fast food is marketed relentlessly to consumers. According to Statista.com, McDonald’s alone spent 447.3 million US dollars on advertising worldwide in 2019. Apparently, when humans are consistently shown fatty, sugary, attractive-looking, delicious unhealthy food, and this food is available to us for a relatively cheap price per calorie, we jump at the chance to buy and eat it. 

Statistics also show that we are moving around much less than we ever have. This is also making people fat. According to Australian’s government, 55% of the country’s adults do not get enough physical activity daily, and scarily, 70% or 2 in every 3 children aged 2 to 17 did not meet the physical activity guidelines either. Only 1 in 10 kids adhered to the screen based guidelines, meaning that all children the others were on devices and watching TV too much of the time. All of this sedentary behavior along with bad eating habits appears to be driving Australian’s weight too high. 

People queue at Hungry Jacks fast food shop in Melbourne, Australia. Image credit: TK Kurikawa/Shutterstock.com

The Dangers Of Weighing Too Much

Being obese comes with a price tag, of course. According to health authorities, compared with people who are of healthy weight, those who are obese face an increased risk of all causes of death, and in particular have a greater chance of suffering from high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, and mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. People who are obese also have a greater risk of suffering from high LDL cholesterol, coronary heart diseae, gallbladder disease, and many types of cancer. Being obese has such a strong impact on your body that it can increase some of these risks by up to seven times. Being excessively overweight can also influence how well your memory works. All of these factors obviously add up to bad news for the future of humanity if we do not lose some collective weight soon. 

Runners participating in the "Bridge to Brisbane" charity fun run on September 07, 2014 in Brisbane, Australia. Image credit: Paintings/Shutterstock.com

What Is Being Done About It

Governments are actively seeking to tackle the obesity problem in many places. In Australia, ministers agreed at the 2018 Council of Australia Governments Health Council Meeting that a National Obesity Strategy was going to be developed. The first phase included a National Obesity Summit funded by the Commonwealth. This summit was held in February of 2019. About 120 people from government organizations, academia, medical and public health organizations, as well as consumer groups and the food industry attend the event. Factors leading to obesity were examined and priority areas for action were discussed. Change takes time, and we will see in coming years if tactics decided upon were effective or not.  

The Australian government has stated that tackling the country’s weight problem will require a multi-faceted approach. In order to change the habits of families and individuals, the ways people are currently eating will have to change across entire communities. If the approach is  successful, perhaps other countries will be able to learn from Australia’s lead.

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