Childhood Obesity in Australia

In 2007-08, one quarter of Australian children were overweight or obese. The rate of obesity for children (aged 5-17 years) increased from 5.2% in 1995 to 7.5% in 2007-08 (ABS, 2013).

Childhood obesity is a condition in which a child is significantly overweight for his or her age and height. This is based on measuring the child’s body mass index (BMI).

Obesity is a result of many factors such as genetics, lifestyle and habits. Children who are overweight are more likely to spend less time engaged in physical activity and more time eating foods that lack nutritional value.

Who is vulnerable?

Low socioeconomic status, lack of education, inadequate exercise, improper nutrition and poor food choices all contribute to childhood obesity. Young children are vulnerable in regards to food that is purchased for the household or served in school lunches.

Low income households and convenience commonly leads to over consumption of processed and packaged energy dense, nutrient poor foods.

Why is childhood obesity a concern?

  • Children who are overweight or obese will often remain overweight as adults, increasing the risk of developing preventable chronic diseases, including stroke, heart disease, many types of cancers and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being reported among children who are overweight. Onset of diabetes in children can lead to heart disease and kidney failure.
  • Children with obesity are at higher risk of developing bone and joint problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnea and other sleep disturbances and digestive disorders.
  • Obese children are also more likely to develop eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression, and can negatively impact their school experience and performance.
  • Children with obesity can be bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers. They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem. The effects of this can last into adulthood.
  • Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults. This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems.

Article authors: Rachel Yap, Nutritionist, Bachelor of Health Sciences, U.Q; Selina Box, BA (Psych), UQ Grad Dip Ed, QUT – Published November 2017.