For a long time, Australia has been known as the country of fit and healthy people with a love for the outdoors. During the last 20 years however, the lifestyle has changed and food has become more and more the most important part of life. It might be that the image of a sporty, healthy Australia has to be replaced in the near future.

Australia is the fourth most obese advanced-country in the world, after the United States, Mexico and New Zealand, according to the OECD ranking of 2013. Many developed countries have managed to cut obesity rates in the last few years, but Australia’s figures continue to grow. The average OECD adult obesity rate is 17.8%. Australia has an obesity rate of 24.6%, which is worrying.

Even being overweight or moderately obese can reduce life expectancy by three years and can have a huge impact on quality of life, especially for children. It increases the chance of mental health problems and limits mobility, just to name a few consequences of obesity. The World Health Organisation defines people with a BMI greater than 25 as overweight and greater than 30 as obese.

Especially for families it has become a huge problem to eat healthily due to food advertising everywhere.

Wendy Brownell, an Australian mother, told the BBC: “My children and other children know the symbols for things like McDonalds and Coca Cola and Cadbury’s before they are two years old.”

Therefore, Australia launched educational advertising campaigns against fast food which use shock tactics to raise public awareness of obesity. One of them argues: “You wouldn’t inject your children with junk. So why are you feeding it to them?”. Parents are responsible for what their children eat. This is what the campaigns try to enforce.

Healthy expat destination?

So what do expat families think? Is it difficult to follow a healthy diet in Australia? The HSBC Expat Explorer survey says that 70% of expats have seen an improvement in their children’s health after moving to Australia. This could be due to different reasons such as climate or health care, and is not only related to food. In a ranking made by the HSBC Expat Explorer survey comparing countries in the ‘healthy diet’ category Australia comes 11th out of 37 countries ranked, which is not bad at all. Do expats experience the same problems maintaining a healthy diet as locals? It does not seem so.

Nevertheless, obesity is not only considered an Australian problem. The State of Victoria Department of Human Services stated, that 83% of men and 75% of women would be overweight or obese by 2025. The National Obesity Forum in the UK thinks that half of British adults will be obese by 2015. Different facts and figures, same issue in many countries: Are we facing an obesity crisis?

Experts note that there is some uncertainty in the provided data. At the moment it is getting better in many parts of the world, but this can change rapidly. Much depends on government policies leading their country in the right direction.