ABS: Diabesity a major problem in Australia

By Leith van Onselen

The ABS today released its National Health Survey for 2017-18, which revealed that rates of obesity continue to rise, with two-thirds (67.0%) of Australian adults classified as either overweight or obese, up from 56.2% in 1995:

However, the data above is based on the highly flawed “Body Mass Index” (BMI), which is useless on an individual level (resulting in low fat, muscular people being deemed overweight). Accordingly, the ABS has also measured waist circumference, where the “proportion of population at increased risk has remained stable since 2011-12”, and also increases with age:

Nevertheless, diabetes remains a major problem, although its incidence has reduced a little recently:

In 2017-18, one in twenty Australians (4.9% or 1.2 million people) had diabetes. Since 2001, this rate has increased from 3.3%, however, has remained relatively stable since 2014-15 (5.1%).

Diabetes continued to be more common among males than females (5.5% and 4.3% respectively). The prevalence of diabetes has increased for both males and females since 2001 (both 3.3%).

Diabetes is also strongly correlated with excess body weight:

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  1. It’s ok – we’re importing 99.99% skinny people! It certainly lifts the “over-all health” level for the nation!

  2. Yes, the original BMA is a tad simplistic for accuracy – I recall at age 26 I was pumping iron, running, boxing and MMA (wasn’t called that back then). I was as fit as a mallee bull but on taking the BMI test I found I was just a little short of morbidly obese by that measure.

    • It’s a great measure for overall population health, it’s not so useful when applied on an individual basis in certain circumstances. ‘Deeply flawed’ – what a wank, plenty of studies show BMI provides statistically significant predictors of multiple health outcomes independent of any confounding such as your hypothetical ‘skinny & muscly’ person.

    • I lived in Japan for a decade … I had to do annual health checks against a Japanese benchmark. Every year I was told how unhealthy I was … way off the charts.

  3. Can’t wait for MB to commence a compaign for uniform alcohol tax on volume as I note yesterday a new paper indicates it would the single most powerful weapon to reduce obesity. Yep, even ahead of a sugar tax.

    • That would be incredibly unfair: I drink like a fish but my BMI is below average and I’m more inclined to lose weight as I drink, not gain.

      I blame the absurd sausage-in-bread tradition myself.

  4. I went to a tech conf a few month ago, jumped on this machine and found out that I have 12% body fat. I weight 72kgs, does this mean i am fat?

  5. Waist circumference is the best indicator. Take your measurement just above your hips (so you’re not measuring your bone structure) at navel level with a soft measuring tape used by clothing tailor. Make sure you’re not pinching yourself with the tape (ie cheating). If your waist to height ratio is 50% or less, you’re in good shape. End of story.

    • Exactly so. That half the distance around as you are tall is a statistically significant cut-off point. There’s now also highly correlated fat deposits in the pancreas with type 2 diabetes. Experimentally losing 1 gram of fat there can reverse diabetes. Caveats apply.

  6. Should trial intermittent fasting as part of the portfolio of management measures of diabesity. Of course you will puncture the myth that it is a disease that got no cure….

  7. I went to Bon Jovi and Gun’s N’ Roses concerts in Sydney recently, both brought out everyone 1 of those 70% of overweight Australian’s I reckon. By comparison I looked famished.

    • Part of the solution may lie in the intermittent fasting and extended fasting area. But needs to be explored more by the medical establishment as they are very kiasi (afraid of failure).

  8. Too long since the last recession. Nothing reduces the waistline faster than starvation. The starvation recession we had to have!

  9. Petrol stations are just lolly shops now. Get you oil at woolies where they also sell Glyphosate!