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4841.0 - Facts at your Fingertips: Health, 2011  
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Contents >> Measuring Australians


MEASURING AUSTRALIANS

Height, weight and waist measurements can be useful indicators of health-related risks [1]. With three out of five Australian adults (61%) either overweight or obese [2], it is important to monitor how Australians measure up to identify high risk groups and recognise the characteristics associated with these physical attributes.


    ABOUT THE INFORMATION...

    This article draws on data from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) and 2007–08 National Health Survey (NHS). Analysis is for people aged 18 years and over who had their height, weight and waist measured, unless otherwise stated.

    All analysis on waist risk distributions are age-standardised to the 2001 estimated resident population (ERP) for Australia.

    Definitions of healthy waistlines are ascribed to waistlines less than 94 cm for men and 80 cm for women. Risky waistlines are ascribed to waistlines greater than or equal to 94 cm for men and greater than or equal to 80 cm for women as per National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines (2003) [1].


THE AVERAGE AUSTRALIAN
  • In 2007–08, the average Australian man was 176.0 cm tall, weighed 85.2 kg and had a waistline of 96.2 cm. The average Australian women was 162.1 cm tall, weighed 70.1 kg and had a waistline of 85.8 cm.
  • A comparison of results from the 1995 National Nutrition Survey shows that Australians are growing both taller and heavier. Between 1995 and 2007–08, the average height for men increased by 1.2 cm and for women by 0.7 cm, while the average weight for men increased by 3.2 kg and for women by 3.1 kg.

1.1 Mean measured height, weight, waist and hip by sex, 1995(a) and 2007–08(b)

Male
Female

1995
Height (cm)
174.8
161.4
Weight (kg)
82.0
67.0
2007–08
Height (cm)
176.0
162.1
Weight (kg)
85.2
70.1
Waist (cm)
96.2
85.8
Hip (cm)
101.4
101.9

Source(s): ABS National Nutrition Survey 1995 and National Health Survey 2007–08
(a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their height and weight measured.
(b) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their height, weight, waist and hips measured.


1.2 Mean measured height by age and sex(a), 1995 and 2007–08

Graph Image for Mean measured height

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their height measured.

Source(s): ABS National Nutrition Survey, 1995, National Health Survey, 2007–08



1.3 Mean measured weight by age and sex(a), 1995 and 2007–08

Graph Image for Mean measured weight

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their weight measured.

Source(s): ABS National Nutrition Survey, 1995, ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



Mean measured height and weight
  • Height steadily decreased across older age groups. Adults aged 18–24 years were, on average, the tallest followed by those aged 25–44 and 45–64 years. Adults aged 65 years and over were, on average, the shortest.
  • Weight steadily increased with age but started to decrease after 64 years. Adults aged 18–24 years, on average, weighed the least. Adults aged 45–64 years, on average, weighed the most compared with the other age groups.
  • The average weight of both males and females in all age groups has increased since 1995.
  • On average, as height increased, weight steadily increased. Adults in the bottom 10% of height distribution (<166 cm for males and <153 cm for females), on average, weighed the least. While adults in the top 10% of height distribution (>185 cm for males and >171 cm for females), on average, weighed the most.

WAIST MEASUREMENTS

Waist measurement is widely accepted as an indicator of potential risk in developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some type of cancers. The NHMRC guidelines for waist circumference and risk levels are presented in Table 1.4 [1]. For the purpose of this analysis, men with waistlines less than 94 cm are considered to have healthy waistlines, while those with waistlines greater than or equal to 94 cm are considered to have risky waistlines. Women with waistlines less than 80 cm are considered to have healthy waistlines, while those with waistlines greater than or equal to 80 cm are considered to have risky waistlines.


1.4 Waist circumference and risk level

Waist circumference (cm)

Male
Female
Not at risk
<94
<80
Increased risk
≥94 to <102
≥80 to <88
Substantially increased risk
≥102
≥88

Source: Department of Health and Ageing, 2003, Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults.


Waist risk distribution of the Australian population
  • In 2007–08, more than half of the Australian adult population had risky waistlines, with 55% of men and 64% of women reported to have waistlines greater than or equal to 94 cm and 80 cm, respectively.
  • Waist risk steadily increased with age. Adults aged 65 years and over had the highest proportion of risky waistlines (77% of men and 82% of women) compared with adults in the younger age groups.
  • Adults aged 18–24 years had the highest proportion of healthy waistlines (79% of men and 66% of women) compared with adults in the older age groups.


1.5 Male waist risk distribution by age(a), 2007–08

Graph Image for Male waist risk distribution

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their waist measured.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



1.6 Female waist risk distribution by age(a), 2007–08

Graph Image for Female waist risk distribution

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their waist measured.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



Demographics
  • People living in the least disadvantaged areas were more likely to have healthy waistlines than those living in the most disadvantaged areas. This difference was more pronounced for women than for men (53% compared with 43% for men and 47% compared with 28% for women)
  • Similarly, those with a degree or diploma were more likely to have healthy waistlines than those without a non-school qualification (50% compared with 43% for men and 46% compared with 30% for women).


1.7 Male waist risk distribution by SEIFA Index of Disadvantage(a), 2007–08

Graph Image for Male - SEIFA Index of Disadvantage

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their waist measured. (b) Waist risk distributions are age-standardised to 2001 estimated resident population.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



1.8 Female waist risk distribution by SEIFA Index of Disadvantage(a), 2007–08

Graph Image for Female - SEIFA Index of Disadvantage

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their waist measured. (b) Waist risk distributions are age-standardised to 2001 estimated resident population.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08


Health status
  • People who had risky waistlines were more likely to have diabetes (6% of men and 5% of women) than those who had healthy waistlines (4% of men and 1% of women).
  • Women with risky waistlines were more likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who had healthy waistlines (6% compared with 4%). However, there was no significant difference for men.
  • There was no significant difference for cancer between people with healthy and risky waistlines (3% compared with 2% for men and 1% compared with 2% for women).
  • People with risky waistlines were less likely to perceive their health as excellent/very good (45% of men and 52% of women) than people with healthy waistlines (61% of men and 68% of women).
  • People with risky waistlines were more likely to be overweight or obese (94% of men and 79% of women) than people with healthy waistlines (36% of men and 12% of women).


1.9 Male waist risk distribution by long-term health conditions(a)(b)(c), 2007–08

Graph Image for Male waist risk distribution by selected conditions

Footnote(s): (a) Persons aged 18 years and over who had their waist measured. (b) Current condition which has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more. (c) Waist risk distributions are age-standardised to 2001 estimated resident population. (d) Includes angina, other ischaemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, oedema, heart failure and diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries. (e) Includes Type 1, Type 2 and unknown. (f) Includes malignant neoplasms.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



1.10 Female waist risk distribution by long-term health conditions(a)(b)(c), 2007–08

Graph Image for Female waist risk distribution by selected conditions

Footnote(s): (a) Persons 18 years and over who had their waist measured. (b) Current condition which has lasted, or is expected to last, for 6 months or more. (c) Waist risk distributions are age-standardised to 2001 estimated resident population. (d) Includes angina, other ischaemic heart diseases, oedema, heart failure and diseases of arteries, arterioles and capillaries. (e) Includes Type 1, Type 2 and unknown. (f) Includes malignant neoplasms.

Source(s): ABS National Health Survey, 2007–08



Selected risk factors
  • Women with risky waistlines were more likely to have ever smoked compared with those with healthy waistlines (47% compared with 40%).
  • Women with risky waistlines were also more likely to be current smokers compared with those with healthy waistlines (21% compared with 16%). However, there was no significant difference for current smoker status between men with healthy and risky waistlines (24% compared with 21%).
  • People with risky waistlines were more likely to lead a sedentary lifestyle, doing very little or no exercise (39% of men and 41% of women) compared with people with healthy waistlines (34% of men and 33% of women).


MEASURED BODY MASS INDEX

In the 2007–08 NHS, height and weight measurements were used to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI), a common measure used to estimate whether a person is underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or obese.
  • Over the last two decades in Australia, there has been a steady shift towards the higher end of the Body Mass Index, driven mainly by weight gain rather than changes in height.
  • In 2007–08, one in four (24%) Australians aged 18 years and over were obese.
  • Since 1995, the rate of obesity has risen from 19% to 24%, with the increase greater for men than for women.
  • In total, 61% of Australians were overweight or obese. This rate was higher for men (68%) than women (55%), and higher for older people than younger people.
More detailed information on overweight and obesity can be found in the ABS publication Overweight and Obesity in Adults in Australia: A Snapshot (cat. no. 4842.0.55.001).

For more information on how physical measurements were obtained in the 1995 NNS and 2007–08 NHS, see How Australians Measure Up, 1995 and The National Health Survey Users Guide 2007–08.


REFERENCE

1. Department of Health and Ageing, 2003, Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, viewed 31/05/2012, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/7AF116AFD4E2EE3DCA256F190003B91D/$File/adults.pdf <www.health.gov.au>
2. ABS Overweight and Obesity in Adults in Australia: A Snapshot (cat. no. 4842.0.55.001), viewed 24/07/2012, http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4842.0.55.001 <www.abs.gov.au>


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