Inequalities in overweight obesity

Heart Foundation

A new report released today shows that Australians of working age who are paying off a mortgage or renting and those living in inner regional areas are more likely to be overweight or obese.

The report

by the Australian Institute of Health & Welfare (AIHW) highlights the links between overweight and obesity and the circumstances in which Australians grow, live, work and age.

The report found Australians paying off a mortgage or renting and those living in inner regional areas were 1.2 times more likely to be overweight or obese compared with homeowners and Australians living in major cities.

Australia is the fifth most overweight nation in the developed world according to the OECD. Around 12.5 million Australian adults (67%) and 1.2 million Australian children and adolescents (25%) are considered overweight or obese.

Unhealthy diets and weight are major contributors to coronary heart disease and poor health in Australia. Poor diet is responsible for more than half (62%) of the burden of coronary heart disease – Australia’s single biggest killer – and overweight and obesity is responsible for one quarter (25%).

Obesity has also been recognised as a major risk factor for severe outcomes after infection with COVID-19.

Heart Foundation Director of Health Strategy, Julie Anne Mitchell said while weight is influenced by the type and amount of food we eat and drink, and how much exercise we do, some Australians are at greater risk of being overweight or obese simply because of the environments in which they live, learn and work.

“Health inequities are avoidable. They start long before people get sick and happen when there is unequal access to education, housing, transport, food, reliable income, secure employment and good social support,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Chronic disease thrives on inequality and heart disease and its risk factors are no exception.

“Disadvantages in health, education and employment start early and reinforce each other over time, throughout a person’s life. But there are opportunities to change this, and we must start now.

The National Obesity Strategy currently in development will be a critical framework for governments across all levels to begin addressing Australia’s obesity problem and the issues of disadvantage that contribute to it.

Our submission to this strategy put a high priority on addressing issues of equity, food access and food security in urban, rural and remote areas of Australia.

“This includes measures such as improved healthy food access for people living in remote, rural and regional areas, Indigenous Australians and those from disadvantaged and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.”

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