Notes on the data: Health risk factors

Estimated male, female and total population, aged 18 years and over, with a waist circumference indicating an increased/substantially increased risk of developing chronic diseases, 2017-18


Policy context:  Waist circumference is a commonly used measure of whether a person is of a healthy weight or not. In particular, it provides a good estimate of body fat, and can indicate a person's potential risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

In 2017-18, the average waist measurement for men aged 18 years and over was 98.0cm, while for women of the same age it was 87.9cm. Both averages are considerably above the measurements indicating increased risk (94cm and 80cm respectively), particularly for women [1].

More than half (59.6%) of all men aged 18 years and over had a waist circumference that put them at an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, while two in three (66.0%) women had an increased level of risk [1].

Between 2007-08 and 2011-12 the proportions of men and women at increased risk rose, from 55.4% to 59.6% respectively for men, and 63.8% to 66.3% respectively for women. However, between 2011-12 and 2017-18 the proportions have remained stable. This corresponds with the slowing in recent years of the trend in increases in the proportion of Australians who are overweight or obese based on Body Mass Index [1].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Waist circumference, National Health Survey: First Results, 2017–18. Available from:; last accessed 4 December 2019.


Small area estimates:

Data by Population Health Area, Local Government Area and Primary Health Network are available for the 2014-15 National Health Survey in the data archive.

Differences from data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS):

Data by quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage and Remoteness will differ to the extent that data extracted from Survey TableBuilder have been randomised, whereas those published by the ABS are not. In addition, rates published by the ABS for modelled estimates are generally crude rates; rates published by PHIDU are age-standardised.

Indicator detail

A waist measurement of 94cm or more for men or 80cm or more for women indicates that a person is at increased risk of developing chronic disease [1].

  1. World Health Organisation, 2000, Obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. Report of a WHO Consultation, 2000. Available from:

Geography:  Data available by , Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  Estimated number of males, females or persons aged 18 years and over who had a waist circumference increasing risk or substantially increasing risk of developing chronic disease


Denominator:  Male, female or total population aged 18 years and over


Detail of analysis:  Indirectly age-standardised rate per 100 population (aged 18 years and over); and/or indirectly age-standardised ratio, based on the Australian standard


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on direct estimates from the 2017-18 National Health Survey, ABS Survey TableBuilder.


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