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Prevalence of obesity, overweight and thinness in Australian children and adolescents by socioeconomic status and ethnic/cultural group in 2006 and 2012

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International Journal of Public Health



To study the prevalence of obesity, overweight and thinness, by sex, SES and ethnic background in 2006 and 2012.


Large national surveys of school students were conducted. Height/weight was measured. The outcomes were height, weight, BMI, thinness, overweight and obesity (IOTF), SES and ethnicity.


Obesity in 2006 and 2012 in boys and girls was 7.5 and 7.1 %, and 5.8 and 5.6 %; being overweight was 17.7 and 18.5 %, and 18.9 and 18.7 %; thinness was 3.8 and 4.6 %, and 5.0 and 6.0 %. Independent predictors of obesity in 2006 and 2012 were being Pacific Islander (OR 5.03, 5.66), Middle Eastern (OR 3.64, 1.50), aboriginal (OR 2.43 in 2012 only), African (OR 1.99 2012 only), Southern European (OR 1.75, 1.72), low SES (OR 2.22, 2.20), middle SES (OR 1.52, 1.60), female (OR 0.77, 0.82) and adolescent (OR 1.08, 2012 only). Predictors of thinness in 2006 and 2012 were ethnicity: Indian (OR 5.29, 1.96), African (OR 2.71, 2006 only), Asian (OR 1.69, 1.57) and female (OR 1.30, 1.27).


The predictors of obesity and thinness were ethnically based, suggesting culturally appropriate interventions in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

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The 2006 study was supported by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant to Professors Probyn and O’Dea in 2005–2007, titled the “Youth cultures of eating study: a comparative cultural analysis of youth obesity, gender, class, ethnicity and age”, and the 2012 study was supported by an ARC Discovery Grant from 2010 to 2013 titled “An investigation of ethnicity, socio-economic status and social networks as drivers of childhood obesity and body image among children and adolescents” to Professors O’Dea, Dibley and Hossain. The authors wish to thank Professor Jennifer Peat for advice regarding the statistical analyses.

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Correspondence to Jennifer A. O’Dea.

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O’Dea, J.A., Dibley, M.J. Prevalence of obesity, overweight and thinness in Australian children and adolescents by socioeconomic status and ethnic/cultural group in 2006 and 2012. Int J Public Health 59, 819–828 (2014).

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