Patients and GPs fail to recognise overweight and obesity

A national study released this week shows many patients and GPs fail to recognise overweight and obesity, with many Australians incorrectly classified as a normal weight.

The research, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, found one in four overweight or obese patients did not consider themselves overweight or obese.

One in five overweight or obese patients were not considered overweight or obese by their GP, and both patients and GPs failed to recognise overweight or obesity in one in six cases of unhealthy weight.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift said an improvement in the recognition of overweight and obesity was essential for both patients and health professionals.

“The study found the increasing prevalence and normalisation of overweight and obesity may be a contributing factor to under-recognition,” Ms Clift said.

“It’s important for GPs to be aware that their perception of a patient’s weight, and the patient’s perception, could cause overweight or obesity to be overlooked, with potentially serious health consequences.

“Australia’s obesity crisis is burgeoning – Queensland has the highest rate of obesity nationally, and about a quarter of our children are overweight or obese.

“Being overweight or obese increases the risk of a range of chronic diseases, including some cancers.

“Routine measurement of height, weight and waist circumference could improve recognition of overweight and obesity by both GPs and patients.”

The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council clinical practice guidelines for management of overweight and obesity lists BMI and waist circumference as the routine measures for identifying overweight and obesity.

When used together, BMI and waist circumference are considered to give better estimates of body fat percentage and to better predict obesity-related health risk.

Two in three Queensland adults and one in four Queensland children are currently overweight or obese.

Up to one third of all cancers can be prevented through simple lifestyle choices including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and being physically active.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland is available at or 13 11 20.


For more information or interviews, please contact:
Katie Clift,
Executive Manager,
Media and Spokesperson,
Cancer Council Queensland
Phone: (07) 3634 5372
Mobile: 0409 001 171