OECD says New Zealanders are the 3rd fattest nation

There is no disputing the fact that the general population is getting fatter. Now there’s a study to prove it, and New Zealand comes off badly. The OECD Health Data 2009 – comparing health statistics across OECD countries is behind locked doors, available only to journalists or people who subscribe to the OECD ‘service’. So, there’s no way of me knowing how the OECD arrived at their conclusions.

All I can confirm is that we are third only behind the USA, and Mexico. The USA has nearly one in three obese people whereas we are nearly one in four.

You only need to look at the weight restrictions in lifts to see how much our weight has increased over the years. A lift that can hold 13 people OR 900 kgs would suggest that the average weight of lift-users is approximately 70kg. That’s clearly rubbish. My nickname is Skinny and I weigh 75kgs – put 13 of me in a lift and the alarms would sound.

A few ideas (of mine) as to how and why people are putting on weight:

  1. People are eating the wrong food.
  2. People aren’t exercising enough.
  3. Recessionary times increase levels of anxiety and depression and so people eat more
  4. Recessionary times means people are watching their dollars and eating cheaper, more fatty, more unhealty food
  5. People work longer and so have less time to cook good quality healthy food
  6. People have forgotten how to cook good quality healthy food
  7. Coke is cheaper than milk
  8. Eating a burger and fries is cheaper, easier and quicker than cooking a good quality healthy meal
  9. There’s a hell of a lot more sugar in everything we eat, even in our apples, and bread!
  10. More and more of the population sit on their arse all day staring at computer screens instead of working in jobs that require them to move and exercise
  11. Advertising pushes and pushes crap food (down our throats – literally) under the guise of it being healthy and quick when it is neither

Digging round the OECD site to see if there is any free data on obesity I came across this working paper:
THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC: ANALYSIS OF PAST AND PROJECTED FUTURE TRENDS IN
SELECTED OECD COUNTRIES
(1319kb, PDF)

They identify the following issues:

…changing diets and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, particularly in the last thirty years, have contributed to a generalised increase in body weight. Spreading obesity has been associated with growing rates of chronic diseases, possibly affecting longevity…

and there is an

…epidemic of ‘lack of cardio-respiratory fitness’ associated with sedentary behaviour…

as well as

…many people are consuming too much salt, which is one of the determinants of rising levels of hypertension…

They also reveal

…male obesity rates have also been growing faster than female rates in most OECD countries…

but that

…pre-obesity rates (are) increasing at a faster pace in women than men in countries such as Australia, Switzerland, United States or United Kingdom, while the opposite is true in countries such as Finland, Japan or Spain…

There’s also evidence that “identified women as one of a number of groups, along with low-wage earners and ethnic minorities, in which declining real incomes, coupled with increasing numbers of hours devoted to work, have been associated with escalating obesity
rates since the 1970s.” (See my point #5 above)

And the relationship between socio-economic condition and obesity?

In low-income countries obesity is generally more prevalent among the better-off,  while disadvantaged groups are increasingly affected as countries grow richer…Men and women in poor socio-economic circumstances may also differ with regard to their patterns of physical activity. Low-paid jobs typically reserved to men tend to be more physically demanding than those more often taken up by women.

So, there you have it. The government aiding and abetting this situation, this epidemic, by not restricting advertising of food to children and by removing funding to grass-roots initiatives aimed at increasing health and fitness (SPARC).

What will New Zealand look like in 10 years time? How much will we, as tax payers, be paying for our overburdened public health in the treatment of diabetes and heart problems? Will we eventually ride in lifts where the maximum number of people allowed will be six (or 900 kgs)?

I hope not.


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  • By sam catte, July 15, 2009 @ 11:12 pm

    Or could it simply as whispered in medical circles be that the statistics on the body mass index are trending higher as the NZ population now contains more people of polynesian ethnicity who tend to be larger at puberty and in young adulthood than those of western european descent. More amusingly I briefly worked with one of our “anti obesity” lobbyists – who spent 15 minutes after lunchtime in the bogs heaving up every day and thought no one noticed……

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