It’s Official: Australia And New Zealand Have The Fastest Growing Obesity Rate On Earth

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It’s Official: Australia And New Zealand Have The Fastest Growing Obesity Rate On Earth


A new global study of international obesity rates has painted a porky picture of Australasia, which is now the fastest growing region in the world. Since 1980, Australian and New Zealand obesity rates have leapt from 16 per cent to a whopping 29 per cent. In Australia, an estimated 11 million adults are now overweight along with nearly a quarter of our kids.

Weight gain picture from Shutterstock

The global obesity study was conducted by an international consortium of researchers led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. 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. (While BMI can be a poor obesity indicator for individuals, it’s usually pretty solid when calculating entire populations.)

In a result that probably won’t surprise you, it found that approximately 2.1 billion people — nearly one-third of the world’s population — are overweight or obese. More than 50 per cent of obese people live in just 10 countries: US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

In high-income countries, some of the largest increases in adult obesity were found in the US (where one-third of adults are obese), Australia (nearly 30 per cent), and the UK (around 25 per cent). New Zealand also broke the scales with a total adult obesity rate of 29 per cent.

In Australia, the adult overweight and obesity rate now stands at 63 per cent, an increase of 14 per cent since 1980. Weight increase has also ballooned among Australian children, with nearly 24 per cent either obese or overweight; up from 16 per cent in 1980.

Aussie blokes are more likely to be overweight or obese than woman — 68 per cent vs. 56 per cent. Interestingly, this was one of the largest gender gaps in obesity globally.

Of 188 countries included in the study, only 15 nations managed to outsize Australian males in the obesity stakes. Despite this, our 2013 global ranking for both sexes is #52. (Thanks, ladies.)

Here’s how the top ten played out, in terms of obesity prevalence for both sexes:

  1. Kiribati (56.7%)
  2. Samoa (45.9%)
  3. Federated States of Micronesi (45.1%)
  4. Tonga (43.2%)
  5. Solomon Islands (38.4%)
  6. Libya (37.0%)
  7. Egypt (35.4%)
  8. Kuwait (34.8%)
  9. Uruguay (34.4%)
  10. Chile (34.4%)

(In case you were wondering, the USA came in at #21.)

Meanwhile, North Korea is the slimmest nation on Earth, with an obesity prevalence of just 1.0 per cent. All that terror and communism must be good for the constitution.

“Obesity is an issue affecting people of all ages and incomes, everywhere,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of IHME and co-founder of the study. “In the last three decades, not one country has achieved success in reducing obesity rates.”

But it’s not all bad news (it’s just mostly bad news). In developed countries, increases in obesity have begun to slow since 2006; we’re still getting fatter, but at a slower rate. Then again, maybe that just means obesity levels have finally maxed out — just like our bellies.

You can check out more results via IHME’s data visualization tool which includes interactive maps, graphs and pie charts for each country.

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 [The Lancet]

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