​The prevalence of overweight or obesity among NSW adults has steadily increased since 1997. In 2012 49.7% of the adult population were classified as obese or overweight. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher among males (54.3% compared to 44.9% in females), the socio-economically disadvantaged and those living in outer regional and remote areas (56.4% compared to 47.2% in major cities). Projections suggest that, should no action be taken to address the issue, 68% of adult males and 54% of adult females in NSW will be classified as overweight or obese by 2016.

Overweight and obesity is itself a chronic medical condition. Even a small excess energy intake over time can lead to weight gain resulting in overweight and obesity. Overweight and obesity increases the risk of developing chronic disease, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and some cancers. Approximately 40,000 NSW hospitalisations in 2010-2011 were attributed to high body mass and 16% of the difference in health between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people is attributed to high body mass, second only to smoking as the major cause of the health disparity.

More details can be found in the publication A Snapshot of Adult Overweight and Obesity in NSW.

Causes of adulthood ​obesity

When the energy (kilojoules) a person consumes and drinks is more than the energy they use up, fat is deposited on their body. Even small imbalances in this energy in energy out equation over time can cause a person to become overweight or obese.

There is widespread consensus that the rise in overweight and obesity is mostly a result of social, environmental and technological changes over the last few decades. These changes have led to environments which encourage excess energy intake and reduced energy expenditure.

Unhealthy eating, in particular the over-consumption of energy dense, nutrient poor foods and drinks, physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are predictors of overweight and obesity. The 2012 NSW Population Health Survey showed that 53.4% of adults in NSW consumed two or more of the recommended serves of fruit each day, but only 10% of adults reported consuming the recommended five or more serves of vegetables each day. 56.2% of NSW adults reported achieving the recommended levels of physical activity each week, with more men (61.1%) than women (51.4%) reporting adequate levels of physical activity.

Health implic​ations

Having excess weight increases the risk of many chronic and potentially lethal diseases, some of which include:

  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Some cancers
  • Type 2 diabetes (where you don't produce enough insulin)
  • Gall bladder disease
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Musculoskeletal problems such as osteoarthritis and back pain
  • Gout
  • Cataracts
  • Stress incontinence
  • Sleep apnoea
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Page Updated: Tuesday 17 February 2015
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health