About overweight and obesity

Overweight and obesity is a public health issue and major risk factor for ill-health, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Read about what a healthy weight is and why it’s important at all stages of life.

What healthy weight is

A healthy weight is the appropriate body weight for you – it is different for everyone and depends on your:

  • gender
  • age
  • height
  • muscle mass
  • biological and genetic factors, including ethnic background.

Overweight and obesity is a complex issue, influenced by many factors. Read about the factors that affect body weight.

Work out your healthy weight

You can determine whether your weight is in the healthy range, by working out your body mass index (BMI). A healthy BMI range is 18.5 to 24.9.

But the BMI doesn’t take account of body shape or fitness levels. For example, an athlete might have a BMI in the overweight range due to muscle mass.

So, measuring waist circumference, as well as BMI, can help determine whether you could be at risk of some chronic conditions.

Read about BMI and waist circumference

If you are worried about your weight, speak to your doctor.

Why healthy weight is important

Being a healthy weight:

  • provides better quality of life – including feeling better, having more energy, and having a higher self-esteem
  • reduces the risk of ill-health – overweight and obesity is a major risk factor for many conditions
  • makes it easier to manage chronic conditions
  • helps improve mental health – being overweight or obese can contribute to mental ill-health, including low self-esteem, depression and anxiety
  • helps you live longer – on average, people with BMIs of 30 to 35 die 2 to 4 years earlier than those with healthy weight, while those with BMIs of 40 to 45 die 8 to 10 years earlier.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of:

The higher the excess weight, the higher the risk of developing these conditions.

Being overweight or obese can also make it harder to control or manage existing chronic conditions.

Overweight and obesity in Australia

Overweight and obesity is a major – but largely preventable – public health issue in Australia.

In 2019, out of 22 OECD member countries, Australia had the 6th highest proportion of overweight or obese people aged 15 and over.

In Australia:

  • 1 in 4 children aged 2 to 17 are overweight or obese
  • 2 in 3 adults are overweight (36%) or obese (31%)
  • about 2 in 3 adults have a waist circumference that puts them at high risk of chronic disease
  • overweight and obesity increases with age – in 2017–18, 46% of those aged 18 to 24 years were overweight or obese, compared with 75% of those aged 55 to 64 years
  • those aged 65 to 74 years are the most likely of all age groups to be overweight or obese (78%)
  • 8.4% of the total burden of disease was due to overweight and obesity in 2015.

Read more overweight and obesity statistics.

Last updated: 
29 July 2021

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