Epidemic of obese adults
West Australians are the fattest they have ever been, with just under a third now classified as obese and nearly seven in 10 overweight.
For the first time the State is home to more obese people (32.1 per cent) than those with a body mass index (BMI) that categorises them as either healthy or underweight (31 per cent).
On average, WA men are about 14kg heavier than the upper range of healthy. Women are 10.5kg overweight. The shocking findings are contained in the Health Department’s annual report into the health and wellbeing of adults and reveal women under the age of 44 are now nearly as likely to be obese as men, a big departure from previous years.
The report is based on interviews with almost 6000 adults and shows the obesity rate has risen more than 10 per cent from 21.3 per cent in 2002.
In a July submission to a Federal inquiry into Australia’s obesity epidemic, Health Minister Roger Cook described the situation as a “wicked” and “escalating public health problem” and called on the Federal Government to restrict children’s exposure to marketing of unhealthy food and drink and consider a sugar tax on beverages.
This week, acting Health Minister Paul Papalia said chronic disease caused by excess weight ruined lives and placed a burden on taxpayers funding the public health system.
A feasibility study was under way to introduce mandatory kilojoule labelling to fast-food menus and alcohol adverts had been banned on all public transport. “While some initiatives can be addressed at State level, we can’t make all the changes needed on our own. I have asked the Federal Government to consider developing a national obesity prevention strategy,” Mr Papalia said.
Australian Medical Association (WA) president Omar Khorshid described the obesity epidemic as a crisis that would worsen without concerted intervention. He said the AMA strongly supported a levy on sugary drinks and a floor price on alcohol to help reduce binge drinking, a major contributor to weight gain.
Mr Khorshid said restricting the advertising of junk food, fast food and alcohol could have an immediate impact.
“Research suggests most people are gaining weight between the ages of 1830, once they leave home and start making their own choices,” Dr Khorshid said.
“When it comes to healthy eating and drinking, and messages around junk food and alcohol, that is the group we need to be targeting.”
He said children should drink nothing but water and milk. “We need to create a society where when you are thirsty, you reach for water not a sugary drink,” he said.
Obesity spiked nearly 4 per cent in 2017 alone, up to 32.1 per cent from 28.4 per cent the year prior.
The number of people with a BMI at or below 25 (the maximum threshold to be considered healthy) is the lowest it has ever been.
At the same time, the number of people classified as overweight has also reduced, indicating the fat are becoming even fatter and moving into the obese category.
Worryingly, the percentage of obese adults in the 16-44 age bracket jumped from 20.8 per cent in 2016 to 28.3 per cent last year. For women, the climb was even starker — 17.1 per cent to 26.9 per cent.
Some 51.5 per cent of people classified as overweight perceived their weight as normal.