The rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity in recent years has occurred too quickly to be explained by genetic changes. Most experts believe it is due to living in an increasingly 'obesogenic' environment. This is an environment that promotes over-consumption of food and drink, and limits opportunities for physical activity.

A healthy body size is increasingly recognised as important for good health and wellbeing.  Obesity in adults is associated with a long list of adult health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and psychological and social problems.  Overweight and obese children are more likely to be obese into adulthood, and childhood obesity may increase early mortality in adult life. 

Since the late 1980s the prevalence of adult obesity has increased in New Zealand, rising from 10% in 1989 to 28% in 2012.  One in five (21%) children are now overweight, and one in ten are obese.  Since 2006 the prevalence of obesity in children and young people, as well as adults has increased, though the rate of increase has slowed slightly.

Being overweight or obese disproportionately affects Māori and Pacific children and young people.  In 2006/07, 25% of Māori children and young people were overweight and 13% were obese compared with 20% and 8% of children and young people overall.  In Pacific children and young people 31% were overweight and 26% obese. 

Read the full issue summary for obesity [PDF].