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Australia: GDP growth is padding our waistlines

With 61 percent of Australians overweight or obese, we’re now “almost as fat as the Americans”—and getting fatter by the day, said Ross Gittins in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Ross GittinsThe Sydney Morning Herald

In the past two decades, Australia has outpaced every developed nation in putting on pounds, said Ross Gittins. With 61 percent of Australians overweight or obese, we’re now “almost as fat as the Americans”—and getting fatter by the day. While it’s easy to dismiss obesity as a result “of gluttony and sloth,” the reality is that obesity has been rising across the developed world since the 1980s, suggesting it’s a result not of individual failures but of “the way we organize society.”

In short, we are victims of our success. Because of advances in agriculture and logistics, the food supply changed dramatically in the late 20th century, increasing convenience while driving down the price of calories. Meanwhile, social factors such as the decrease in physical activity at work, the mass participation of women in the workforce, and longer hours on the job contributed to our growing reliance on high-calorie fast foods.

“Until fairly recently, economic growth was making us unambiguously better off.” But now we have “overshot the sweet spot,” with growth actually proving detrimental to our health. Judged by GDP, Australians are doing just fine. But that big bulge around our middle tells us “there’s something amiss.”

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