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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Obesity hits home in Australia
Bondi Beach, Australia
Off the beaches and onto the couches, as AP news agency put it

Obesity in Australia, the land of surfing and bushwalking, has more than doubled over the past two decades thanks in the main to sedentary lifestyles, a new medical survey reports.

The nationwide study of 11,247 people over the age of 25 found 39% were overweight and 20.8% obese - 2.5 times the levels found in the last comparable study in 1980.

National television broadcaster ABC reported the findings under the headline "'Bronzed Aussies no longer".

The researchers who conducted the survey - published in the Medical Journal of Australia - gave a more sober warning of the potential for soaring levels of heart disease and diabetes.

"This urgently demands action on many levels to prevent further rises in the prevalence of diseases such as type two diabetes," the report said.

The findings, published on Monday, may put Australia in the same league in terms of obesity as Britain, but it still lags far behind the United States.

TV effect

Conducted by three universities and the International Diabetes Institute, the survey found that obesity was slightly greater among women, with 22.2% of women obese to 19.3% of men.

Weighing scales
United States:27.5% men, 33.4% women
Australia:19.3% men, 22.2% women
Britain:17% men, 21% women

However, in terms of people defined as overweight, the gender breakdown was radically reversed: 48.2% of men to 29.9% of women.

Obesity and overweightedness were measured using the body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.

Television viewing emerges in the survey as a key factor in weight increase.

"Lower educational status, higher television viewing time and lower physical activity time were each strongly associated with obesity, with television viewing time showing a stronger relationship than physical activity time," the survey said.

"Strong positive associations between obesity and each of television viewing time and lower physical activity time confirm the influence of sedentary lifestyles."

Obesity drugs 'no quick fix'
23 Apr 03  |  Health
TV watching 'makes you obese'
22 Apr 03  |  Health
'Fat gene' discovery
18 Apr 03  |  Health
Australia inching ahead in fat stakes
20 Dec 00  |  Asia-Pacific


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