Prevalence of undernourishment
Determining whether a person is undernourished requires a clinical judgement based on factors including a person’s weight, height, food and nutrient intake and blood/urine nutrient status, symptoms and overall health status.
Some key results from the 2011-12 Australian Health Survey and 2012-13 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey relating to these health measures are:
Height and weight
- For Australian males, 4.6% of 5-17 year olds, and 1.2% aged 18 years and over were underweight (BMI >18.49).
- For Australian females 5.9% of 5-17 year olds, and 2.1% aged 18 years and over were underweight (BMI >18.49)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females aged 2-14 years were 2.0 and 1.4 times respectively more likely to be underweight compared to non-Indigenous children of the same age.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females aged 18 years and over were 1.8 and 1.5 times respectively more likely to be underweight compared to non-Indigenous adults.
Usual nutrient intakes from food (does not include supplements)
- 23% of Australian females aged 2 years and over had inadequate iron intakes compared to 3% of males
- 73% of Australian females aged 2 years and over had inadequate calcium intakes compared to 51% of males.
- Usual nutrient intake data is not available for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. However based on one-day food consumption data, average daily iron intake for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people was similar (10mg and 11mg respectively), and average calcium intake for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 673 mg, which was lower than the average intake for the non-Indigenous population (807 mg).
- 8.3% of Australian women of childbearing age (16-44 years) had an iodine deficiency (defined mean urinary iodine concentration of less than 50 µg/L).
- However, the overall population did not meet the requirements of the World Health Organisation to be considered iodine deficient.
- Overall, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults had higher iodine levels than all non-Indigenous adults (a median of 135.0 ug/L compared with 124.0 ug/L)
It is important to note that these are cross-sectional data and it is not known how many survey participants had low body weight, poor nutrient intakes and inadequate nutrient status.
No clinical assessment was undertaken on participants’ results of the Australian Health Survey data to determine whether survey participants were undernourished.