Background: Around the world, there have been numerous reports of a leveling of the prevalence of obesity. Given that New Zealand has among the highest rates of child and adult obesity in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the aim of the current study was to document the prevalence of, and recent trends in, overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adolescents in New Zealand.
Methods: Data were collected as part of two nationally representative surveys in 2007 and 2012. In both surveys, a nationally representative group of students was selected to participate in the health and well-being surveys from a nationally representative sample of secondary schools. Across the two surveys, more than 17,000 students participated in the survey, which also included measured heights and weights.
Results: In 2012, nearly 40% of adolescents in New Zealand were overweight, obese, or severely obese. Between 2007 and 2012, there were no decreases in the prevalence of obesity for the general population or any demographic subgroup. However, the prevalence of obesity and severe obesity for Pacific young people increased significantly. Of note, the prevalence of severe obesity for Pacific young people increased from 9% in 2007 to 14% in 2012.
Conclusions: Findings from the current study indicate the need for an urgent investment in obesity prevention, particularly to address the growing inequalities in obesity for Pacific young people.