Skip links and keyboard navigation

Obesity fuels growing health problems

Wednesday 19 November 2014

The most confronting public health issue of the century, obesity, is fuelling a surge of chronic diseases such as diabetes, disturbing new statistics show.

Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young said the fifth report of The Health of Queenslanders, released today, revealed the startling reality that Queensland was facing an unprecedented increase in diabetes.

“More than half of Queensland’s population - two-thirds of adults and a quarter of children - are overweight or obese. We have the sad mantle of being the ‘heaviest’ state in Australia.

“You would be hard pressed to find a Queenslander who doesn’t have someone in their family, or someone they know, if not themselves, who is overweight or obese.

“This is triggering the onset of chronic diseases, some of which can’t be turned back - conditions like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, and some cancers.

“Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been regarded as an adult condition, but more children are now being diagnosed, putting them at earlier risk of serious complications.

“In the US for example, where the increase in adolescent type 2 cases is of particular concern, sedentary lifestyles and poor food choices, including too much junk food, are blamed as major factors.

“In Queensland we spend about 42 cents in the food dollar on eating food outside the home. The cost factor aside, takeaway food and eating out often means bigger portions and more calorie-dense foods high in fat and sugar.”

Dr Young said Queensland wasn’t alone in the fight against obesity.

“Obesity is a global pandemic of a different kind and the by-product of prosperous times, technological advances and poor lifestyle choices.

“This problem has been building for the last few decades with the rate of adult obesity doubling in the past 20 years. Australian adults are now among the most obese in the OECD and fast approaching the United States, the highest ranking nation.

“But there are some positive signs of change. There are more workplace health and wellbeing programs promoting exercise breaks and staff gyms, structural changes such as standing desks, and healthy food vending machines at workplaces.

“There are small changes we can make to our everyday lives which can make a difference to our overall health. That is the message of our Healthier. Happier. campaign.  

“The campaign encourages Queenslanders to ask questions about their lifestyle in a fun and interactive way, and use the Health & Fitness Age calculator to discover easy steps to a healthier life.

“I encourage all Queenslanders to take action now to see what improvements they can make to their own health.”

Visit the Healthier. Happier. campaign website for more information on good nutrition and ways to be more active. Healthy recipes and tips for healthier shopping and cooking techniques are also available. The Health & Fitness Age calculator and video files can also be found on the campaign site.

Background information

  • The Healthier. Happier. Workplace program, implemented in partnership with Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) and Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ), has seen an estimated 30,000 employees engaged in healthy living activities
  • The average adult Queenslander gained about three kilograms in a decade and obesity rates increased 2.5 times over two decades
  • Obesity is one of the key contributors to Queensland’s rising rates of type 2 diabetes. Every day, about 60 Queenslanders are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes
  • Self-perception is a concern with one-third of those who were overweight or obese considering themselves of acceptable weight
  • Adult obesity increased 22 per cent in four years with an annual increase of about 40,000 cases per year over a decade. By 2020, it is anticipated that about 1.5 million adults will be obese
  • About half of the financial cost of obesity is due to lost productivity. The total cost of obesity was $11.614 billion in 2008. It was estimated to cause 5.4 per cent of hospital expenditure and indirectly cause 3,200 deaths in 2010
Last updated: 19 November 2014