50 percent of New Zealanders will be obese in 20 years - study

Long Lunch 05/07/2018
Photo credit: Getty.

A new Otago University study has found 2 million Kiwis will be considered obese by 2038 if the obesity epidemic isn't curbed.

The research, published today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, shows the average body mass index (BMI) went from 26.4 to 28.3 between 1997 and 2015. At this rate, by the early 2030s it will cross over the obesity threshold of 30.

It's even worse for Māori and Pacific people, and those living in social deprived neighbourhoods. By 2038 the BMI of Pacific people is projected to exceed the general population by 7.1 to eight.

Researcher Dr Ross Wilson told RadioLIVE’s Wendyl Nissen he’s not surprised by the study’s findings.

“The rise in the obesity over the past decade has been fairly widely reported. So it’s not a huge surprise.

“But hopefully it does come as a bit of a wakeup call,” he told RadioLIVE.

Dr Wilson said changes need to be made to public health policy to address the situation.

"BMI and obesity rates are continuing to increase in New Zealand and our expectation is that they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," Dr Wilson said.

The researchers said the forces behind the epidemic are largely the availability of high-energy, low nutrient foods and lower physical activity across all ages.

Listen to the full interview with Dr Ross Wilson above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.