Is Australia the Chubbiest Nation on Earth?

Silhouettes and waist circumferences represent...
Image via Wikipedia

According to too many high school student debating teams (and their text books, apparently);

Australia is the fattest country on Earth

The article most often cited claims a statistic of 26% of adult Australians being ‘obese’, which is now a percentage point ahead of the USA.

This stat is attributed to a Federal Government report ‘Australia’s Future Fat Bomb’, which makes no comparison with other countries. The 26% figure can be pulled out with tricky maths, but comparing the results of a survey of a few thousand people on a free blood pressure screening day to different, broader worldwide surveys is more than a little problematic.

Anyway, it doesn’t ring true. For example, of my four friends, none of them are obese.

Part of the fun is defining what ‘fat’ means, and that all comes down to Body Mass Index. If you’re between 25 kg/m2 and 30 kg/m2, you’re just overweight. Over the 30 mark, you’re obese.

Also, it helps to go to the source(s) directly. The Wikipedia articles on Obesity in Australia and Epidemiology of Obesity have data that is several years old (none of which ranks Australia at the top).

The World Health Organisation has a bunch of cool data tools you can use to check the 2010 information for yourself. According to WHO, Australia is ranked #20 for males over 30 (years), and 49th placed for females. (The greatest girls and girthiest guys are in Nauru)

The OECD also publishes a report on their countries which is also summarised here. 2010: Australia third, behind the US and New Zealand.

The data isn’t worth celebrating; it shows we’re not far from being number one some day.

But the point is, in 2010, we are not.