Weight issues for children and young people have short and long-term effects on physical and mental health and wellbeing.
Overweight and obese young people are at increased risk of developing physical problems, including chronic disease, while the impacts on mental health extend to social isolation, discrimination, bullying and peer problems (Department of Education and Training 2017).
Overweight or obese children are at increased risk of adult obesity; about 80 per cent of obese adolescents will become obese adults (Simmonds et al. 2016).
Nearly a quarter of Victorian children are overweight or obese (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018).
This is a concerning trend as obese children and adolescents are five times more likely to be obese in adulthood than those who are not obese (Simmonds, Llewellyn et al. 2016).
As with many other health and wellbeing issues, overweight and obesity are more common in children living in more disadvantaged areas (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018).
Children with a major depressive disorder are significantly more likely to be either underweight or obese.
In 2013–14, a survey of Australian children found:
- 10.6 per cent of Australians with a major depressive disorder aged 11 to 17 years were underweight (compared with 5.3 per cent of children with no disorder in this age group)
- 25.8 per cent were overweight (compared with 20.5 per cent of children with no disorder)
- 16.7 per cent were obese (compared with 5.8 per cent with no disorder) (Department of Health 2015).
Several factors can increase weight and obesity in children. These include reductions in physical activity, which have been reported in Victorian children, along with increases in sedentary behaviours (Department of Education and Training 2017).
The significant promotion of less nutritious and energy dense foods – often targeting children in a variety of settings – is a significant driver in encouraging children to want these foods (Nutrition Australia 2017).
The World Health Organization states there is clear evidence that children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing contributes to increasing rates of overweight and obesity in children (World Health Organization 2010).
Find out more
The Chief Health Officer's page discusses obesity in adults.
The Department of Education and Training's contains data about children and young people across a range of health and wellbeing indicators. You can view data at local government area (LGA) level as well as at state level.
The Department of Education and Training also publishes The . This report focuses on health and wellbeing of children.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2018, National health survey 2017–18, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018, Data tables: children's headline indicators, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
Department of Education and Training 2017, The State of Victoria's Children Report 2016, State Government of Victoria, Melbourne
Department of Health 2015, The mental health of children and adolescents: report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental health and Wellbeing, Commonwealth Government of Australia, Canberra.
Nutrition Australia 2017, Tipping the scales: we must halt obesity to save Australian lives, Nutrition Australia.
Simmonds M, Llewellyn A, Owen C and Woolacott N 2016, ‘Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Obesity Reviews, vol.174, no. 2, pp. 95–107.
World Health Organization 2010, Recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, World Health Organization, Geneva.
Reviewed 23 October 2023