Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Obesity again

The ABS has released their regular survey of Australians and their health. There is a wealth of detail in there, but 62% of men, and 45% of women (up 4% each from 5 years ago) were overweight or obese. Mostly, the increase is in the obese proportion, as people move from normal weight to overweight, and then again to obese. I've realised again that my eye has got used to people's new proportions. One of my colleagues mentioned to me the other day that he was classified obese (BMI marginally over 30). If you'd asked me before the conversation, I wouldn't have said he was overweight. But then if 62% of Australian men are overweight, that's the man you're used to looking at.

Just to put it into perspective, one of the health conditions asked about is diabetes. Right now, 3.5% of the population has it (or knows they have it - most estimates are that as many people again have Type II diabetes without knowing about it). Last survey, five years ago, it was 3.0%. It may not sound like much of a change, but it is a 15% increase.


At 10:46 am, Anonymous elsewhere said...

Hmm, perceptions are always interesting. The BMI doesn't take into account muscle mass, so if your friend's a chunky footballer, he may not be obese...

The burgeoning of the public health discourse on this of late intrigues me, particularly the emphasis on the need for bans on advertising etc to prevent childhood obesity. As well as the intersection with the 'fat is a feminist issue/a real woman's body' kind of discourse -- did the pendulum swing the other way on this one? (I also find proposals that you would be discussing all this weight loss stuff with your GP as the first port of call a bit unlikely -- I don't spend that much time at the doctor's myself, and don't people more or less know the solutions?)

I reckon the increasingly sedentary lifestyle is the cause of much obesity. Here in Alice, I've made sure I exercise regularly (as is clear from my blog) as so much driving is involved (lack of public transport, need to avoid the heat, etc). Some people think I'm a bit of a flake or that I must be obsessed with body image. But obsession with aesthetics wears off after a certain age, I find; the health benefits of exercise outweigh all the sweat. I find it odd that so many people my age see exercise as something alien or as an optional add-on at the very least (I'm talking about some friends who get puffed if they have to walk up a hill in Sydney).

At 10:21 pm, Blogger Jennifer said...

I agree obesity comes far more from lack of movement than eating. I'm a public transport user, and that makes all the difference to my fitness. I'm often surprised by colleagues who complain about how fast I walk around the city.

At 11:55 pm, Blogger Susoz said...

I'm mildly surprised by both of your comments, in that I've not come across people who don't at least pay lip service to the need for exercise. But I've also become increasingly aware of how hard it is to build exercise into my daily life, especially with an entirely computer-based job.
A few years ago a friend gave me her free tickets to her union's annual picnic, which that year was at the zoo. She was in the municipal council workers union. So that's who was there. I was so struck by how big everyone was. And by how much junk food was being consumed, in special deals for the special day. It made me realise that in the rarefied area I live and work in, people tend to be slimmer than the Australian average.
The Australian average may be getting bigger but it's still nowhere as big as in the US. I work in the city and often see American tour groups waiting outside opal shops. They are very distinctive by size. Often just about every member of the group will be large or fat. It's a sobering sight. (or should I say an appetite-suppressant sight?)


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