New Zealand has the highest rates of adult and child obesity in the region and Australians too are becoming obese at an alarming rate with seven in 10 men overweight or obese according to the most comprehensive global obesity study to date.
The 188-country report published in The Lancet medical journal shows Australia's problem is ballooning out of control with 63% of adults overweight, up from 49% in 1980. Five million, one third of the adult population, are obese and one in four children is overweight.
Co-author, Winthrop Professor Graeme Hankey, from The University of Western Australia's School of Medicine and Pharmacology QEII Medical Centre Unit said the alarming statistics show the issue needs an effort along the lines of the anti-smoking campaign.
Rates of being either overweight or obese have climbed among New Zealanders since 1980. The adult overweight and obesity rate in the country is 66%, up from 50% during the past 33 years. Among children in New Zealand, 29% are either obese or overweight, up from 18% in just over three decades.
Overweight is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI), or weight-to-height ratio, greater than or equal to 25 and lower than 30, while obesity is defined as having a BMI equal to or greater than 30.
When looking at obesity alone, Australasia experienced the largest absolute increase in adult obesity since 1980 (from 16% to 29%) and the single largest increase in adult female obesity (from 17% to 30%) globally.
Almost half of all overweight Australian women are obese. Obesity rates for women age 20 or older reached 30%, more than quadruple the obesity rates among girls (7%). For Australian boys, obesity prevalence climbed from 7% in childhood and adolescence to 28% in adulthood.
An estimated 11 million Australian adults are overweight, and of these, 5.2 million are obese. More than 68% of the country's men and 56% of women are overweight or obese. This is the second-largest gender gap in overweight/obesity globally, a phenomenon commonly observed in wealthier regions.
When examining data across Oceania, 44% of men and 52% of women were found to be overweight or obese. These rates are lower than overweight and obesity prevalence in Australia and New Zealand, and the gender gap is reversed. For children, obesity prevalence was also lower in Oceania (5%) than in Australia (7%) and New Zealand (10%).
The study, "Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults during 1980-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013," was conducted by an international consortium of researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
"Obesity is an issue affecting people of all ages and incomes, everywhere," said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME and a co-founder of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. "In the last three decades, not one country has achieved success in reducing obesity rates, and we expect obesity to rise steadily as incomes rise in low- and middle-income countries in particular, unless urgent steps are taken to address this public health crisis."
Globally, while the percentage of people worldwide who are either overweight or obese has risen substantially over the last 30 years, there have been marked variations across regions and countries. In developed countries, increases in obesity that began in the 1980s and accelerated from 1992 to 2002 have slowed since 2006. Conversely, in developing countries, where almost two-thirds of the world's obese people currently live, increases are likely to continue.
Between 1980 and 2013, the prevalence of overweight/obese children and adolescents globally increased by nearly 50%. In 2013, more than 22% of girls and nearly 24% of boys living in developed countries were found to be overweight or obese. Rates are also on the rise among children and adolescents in the developing world, where nearly 13% of boys and more than 13% of girls are overweight or obese. Particularly high rates of child and adolescent obesity were seen in Middle Eastern and North African countries, notably among girls.
Today, 2.1 billion people - nearly one-third of the world's population - are overweight or obese. The number of overweight and obese individuals in the world has increased from 857 million (20%) in 1980 to 2.1 billion (30%) in 2013.
In high-income countries, some of the largest increases in adult obesity have been in the US (where one-third of adults are obese), Australia (where nearly 30% of men and women are obese), and the UK (where around a quarter of the adult population is obese).
More than 50% of the world's 671 million obese live in 10 countries (ranked beginning with the countries with the most obese people): US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
Looking at individual countries, the highest proportion of the world's obese people (13%) live in the US. China and India together represent 15% of the world's obese population.
David Stacey (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 32 637 716