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Overweight and Obesity in Hamilton

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Background/context

Overweight and obesity are terms used to identify ranges of body weight status greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify weight ranges that have been shown to increase the likelihood of other health conditions; including cardiovascular disease (CVD), stroke, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, type II diabetes, respiratory problems, arthritis, and cancer. Obesity has reached epidemic proportions throughout the world and is  a significant public health problem in Canada, the province of Ontario, and the City of Hamilton.
Genetic, environmental, and behavioural lifestyle risk factors interact in a complex way to cause obesity. Behavioural risk factors include lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating patterns.

Healthy Weights for Adults 18+ Years

The body mass index (BMI) is the most common method of determining if an individual’s weight is in a healthy range. The BMI a ratio of weight-to-height, can be used as an indicator of a person’s risk of health problems, and is classified into ranges associated with health risk. In this report, BMI is based on self-reported height and weight data. As such, BMI underestimates the prevalence of overweight and obesity.


  • In 2005, the proportion of adults 18 years of age or over in Hamilton who are obese is significantly higher than that of Ontario (18.2% versus 15.1%) respectively. The proportion of adults in Hamilton who are overweight is above the provincial average (35.0% versus 33.4%). In Hamilton, the proportion of adults with normal weight (42.2%) is significantly lower compared with the proportion in Ontario (46.3%). 

Physical Activity in Adults 12+ Years

Regular physical activity has many benefits such as maintenance of a healthy weight, fitness improvement, reduction of anxiety/stress and prevention of a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. One indicator of physical activity is the Physical Activity Index (PAI) which categorizes an individual as being “active”, “moderate”, or “inactive” based on their total energy expenditure values.



  • In 2005, the proportion of Hamilton residents who are physically inactive in their leisure time is higher (47.3%) compared with Ontario (46.0%).
  • Further breakdown of the data by gender showed that the percentage of Hamilton females who are physically inactive was significantly higher than their female counterparts in Ontario (51.7% versus 49.3%). For males, the rate of physical inactivity was comparable between Hamilton and Ontario (42.8% versus 42.7%).

Fruit and Vegetables Consumption in Adults 12+ Years

In 2005, 44.3% of people 12 years of age or over in Hamilton reported eating fruit and vegetables (F&V) five or more times per day which is higher than that of Ontario (41.0%).
Despite the fact that almost 50% (49.1%) of Hamilton residents 12 years of age or over did not meet the minimum number of five times per day, this proportion was significantly lower than Ontario (53.4%).
Gender patterns related to daily frequency of F&V consumption exist. The proportion of males who did not consume the minimum number of five times per day was significantly higher than that of females in Hamilton (54.0% versus 44.4%). Similarly, in Ontario more males (59.5%) than females (47.5%) did not meet the minimum number of five times per day.

Healthy Weights for Adolescents 12-17 Years

Body mass index (BMI) for youth is different from that of adults as they are still maturing. This variable classifies the measured BMI of youth aged 12 to 17 years as “overweight or obese” according to standard age- and sex-specific BMI cut-off points defined by Cole and colleagues. Cole TJ, Bellizzi MC, Flegal KM, et al. Establishing a standard definition for child overweight and obesity worldwide: international survey. British Medical Journal 2000; 320: 1240-3.

  •  The overall proportion of youth in the City of Hamilton reporting a BMI classification of “overweight or obese” (as defined by Cole et al. 2000) is lower (16.3%) than the proportion in Ontario (18.1%).

Physical Activity in Adolescents 12-19 Years
 
Physical activity is associated with healthy weights and character building in adolescents. The overall proportion of Hamilton adolescents reporting being physically active or moderately active (69.2%) is comparable to Ontario (70.7%). The proportions of those physically inactive in Hamilton (22.9%) is significantly lower than that of Ontario (27.1%).

Fruit and Vegetables Consumption in Adolescents 12-19 Years

In 2005, the proportion of Hamilton adolescents who did not meet the minimum daily recommended number of five times per day was lower compared with Ontario (47.3% versus 50.7%) respectively.


  • Gender patterns in daily consumption of F&V showed that almost half (49.0%) of female adolescents in Hamilton do not consume the minimum daily F&V requirement of five times per day compared with 45.7% of Hamilton male adolescents. Conversely, 43.1% of female adolescents in Hamilton ate five or more times of F&V per day compared with 41.4% of their Hamilton male adolescent counterparts.

What Can you Do About it (as a Hamilton Resident)?

Overweight and obesity are conditions influenced by many factors, including nutrition and physical activity habits, genetic factors, and a “toxic” environment that encourages overeating and sedentary behaviour. We, as a community in Hamilton, need to focus not only on individual behaviour but also on creating a supportive environment that makes the healthy choice an easy choice whether at school, work, or where we live and play.

Any comments or questions please contact us at Public Health Services.

Last updated: October 4, 2007