You are more likely to be obese if you have a lower level of education, live in an inner regional area or you are paying off a mortgage or renting.
So says a new report into the social determinants of obesity by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report analyses data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Surveys between 2007 and ’08 and 2017 and ’18 on the circumstances in which people grow, live, work and age.
AIHW spokesperson Richard Juckes said the strength of the association with various factors was unclear.
“For example, when we looked at the types of work Australians do, sales workers, labourers, technicians and trades workers, managers and machinery operators and drivers, had higher rates of weight issues or obesity than those in professional occupations.
“However, differences in overweight and obesity by occupation were no longer evident when other factors such as age, sex, education and where people were born or live were considered.”
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The AIHW did conclude that overweight and obesity issues were “lowest for working age Australians who held a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification and generally highest for those who had not completed or attended secondary school, or had a certificate III/IV, even after considering other factors”.
“Furthermore, after controlling for some of the confounding factors, overweight and obesity was about 1.2 times higher for those paying off a mortgage or renting than those who owned their home, and about 1.2 times higher for those living in inner regional areas than those living in major cities,” Mr Juckes said.
Being overweight or obese is associated with poorer health and wellbeing and an increased risk of chronic disease and associated healthcare costs. In 2017-18, around two in three (67 per cent) of Australians aged 18 and over, and one in four (25 per cent) of children and adolescents aged 5-17, were overweight or obese.
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A separate study has found overweight or obese people who drink alcohol are at greater risk of liver disease and mortality.
The study surveyed the medical data of nearly half a million people and found being overweight or obese “considerably amplified” the harmful effects of alcohol on liver disease and mortality.
“People in the overweight or obese range who drank were found to be at greater risk of liver diseases compared with participants within a healthy weight range who consumed alcohol at the same level,” said senior author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre.
“Even for people who drank within alcohol guidelines, participants classified as obese were at over 50 per cent greater risk of liver disease.”
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug that could help people who are obese and overweight.
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The FDA described Semaglutide (brand name Wegovy) as a once-a-week injection that would help manage weight in people who had at least one weight-related condition, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.
The drug could help patients lose significantly more weight than a placebo when combined with proper diet and exercise.
Maker Novo Nordisk plans to start selling it in the US later this month.
Associate Professor Gary Sacks and PhD student Sally Schultz, writing for The Conversation, say “we live in an environment where the odds of having a healthy diet are heavily stacked against us”.
“Unhealthy foods are readily available and heavily marketed to us by the food industry. This makes it very easy to over-consume unhealthy foods. It also makes it very difficult to consistently select healthy options.”
Their online tool – Australia’s Food Environment Dashboard – illustrates how our environment “drives us to consume too much of the wrong types of foods”.
Do you think obesity is a growing health problem? Do you find it difficult to maintain a consistent weight? Why? Share your opinions in the comments section below.
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