One in eight people living with obesity globally

A person removing a packet of strawberries from a fridge that is full of vegetables and fruit.
  • New global study published in The Lancet shows obesity has more than doubled since 1990
  • In adults, Australia ranks 36th globally for obesity prevalence in men (32.1%) and 79th in women (30%)
  • In children, Australia ranks 53rd for obesity prevalence in boys (17.2%) and 55th in girls (14.2%)

Urgent changes are needed to prevent, manage and treat obesity with a major global study showing more than a billion people are living with obesity worldwide.

The study, which was published in The Lancet, found that since 1990 obesity among adults had more than doubled, while obesity among children and adolescents had quadrupled.

It also found obesity was becoming the most common form of malnutrition in many countries as people had increasing access to commercial and processed foods, which can be energy-dense but nutrient-deficient.

These findings mirror the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Health Survey 2022, which found 3 in 10 Australian adults are living with obesity, with Queensland having the second highest rate of obesity in the nation (34.6%).

Health and Wellbeing Queensland Principal Lead for Public Health Nutrition Mathew Dick said the study highlighted the importance of preventing, managing and treating obesity by increasing peoples’ access to affordable healthy foods and physical activity.

‘This research shows what we’ve known for a while, that putting the pressure on people to change their own behaviour doesn’t work because their environments are working against them,’ Mr Dick said.

‘No country is immune to the drivers of obesity, including Australia. This study looked at 200 countries and territories –every government is facing the same challenge of overturning environments that don’t support healthy behaviours.’

Mr Dick said one of the greatest concerns from the report’s findings was that the age of onset of obesity had decreased.

‘Research by Health and Wellbeing Queensland has shown that children born this decade will live a shorter life than their parents due to obesity,’ he said.

‘We need to wind back the clock to the 1970s when childhood obesity rates were half of what they are now to stop children from losing years of life and years of health.’

Health and Wellbeing Queensland, as the state’s prevention agency, leads and partners on a range of initiatives designed to prevent and reduce obesity. These include Podsquad, Pick of the Crop, A Better Choice, Logan Healthy Living, My Health For Life, 10,000 Steps, Deadly Choices, QCWA Country Kitchens and the QAST Healthier Tuckshops program.

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