Objective: To measure the prevalence of overweight, obesity and the metabolic syndrome (MetS) in rural Australia.
Design, setting and participants: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted in two rural areas in Victoria and South Australia in 2004-2005. A stratified random sample of men and women aged 25-74 years was selected from the electoral roll. Data were collected by a self-administered questionnaire, physical measurements and laboratory tests.
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of overweight and obesity, as defined by body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference; prevalence of MetS and its components.
Results: Data on 806 participants (383 men and 423 women) were analysed. Based on BMI, the prevalence of overweight and obesity combined was 74.1% (95% CI, 69.7%-78.5%) in men and 64.1% (95% CI, 59.5%-68.7%) in women. Based on waist circumference, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher in women (72.4%; 95% CI, 68.1%-76.7%) than men (61.9%; 95% CI, 57.0%-66.8%). The overall prevalence of obesity was 30.0% (95% CI, 26.8%-33.2%) based on BMI (> or = 30.0 kg/m(2)) and 44.7% (95% CI, 41.2%-48.1%) based on waist circumference (> or = 102 cm [men] and > or= 88 cm [women]). The prevalence of MetS as defined by the US National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III 2005 criteria was 27.1% (95% CI, 22.7%-31.6%) in men and 28.3% (95% CI, 24.0%-32.6%) in women; based on International Diabetes Federation criteria, prevalences for men and women were 33.7% (95% CI, 29.0%-38.5%) and 30.1% (95% CI, 25.7%-34.5%), respectively. Prevalences of MetS, central (abdominal) obesity, hyperglycaemia, hypertension and hypertriglyceridaemia increased with age.
Conclusions: In rural Australia, prevalences of MetS, overweight and obesity are very high. Urgent population-wide action is required to tackle the problem.