SYDNEY (Reuters) - More than two-thirds of Australians living outside major cities are overweight or obese, and extremely obese corpses are creating a safety hazard at mortuaries, according to two studies released on Sunday.
Nearly three quarters of men and 64 percent of women were overweight in a study of people in rural areas. Just 30 percent of those studied recorded a healthy weight, said research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
“Urgent action is required at the highest level to change unhealthy lifestyle habits by improving diet, increasing physical activity and making our environments supportive of these objectives,” wrote the lead researcher, Professor Edward Janus.
The figures were much higher than for the general population, where statistics show about 3.2 million of Australia’s 21 million people are obese.
Meanwhile, pathologists are calling for new “heavy-duty” autopsy facilities to cope with obese corpses that are difficult to move and dangerously heavy for standard-size trolleys and lifting hoists.
The bodies presented “major logistical problems” and “significant occupational health and safety issues”, according to a separate study, which found the number of obese and morbidly obese bodies had doubled in the past 20 years.
Specially designed mortuaries would soon be required if the nation failed to curb its fat epidemic, providing “larger storage and dissection rooms, and more robust equipment”, said Professor Roger Byard, a pathologist at the University of Adelaide.
“Failure to provide these might compromise the post-mortem evaluation of markedly obese individuals, in addition to potentially jeopardising the health of mortuary staff.”
In the past year, there have also been requests for larger crematorium furnaces, bigger grave plots as well as super-sized ambulances, wheelchairs and hospital beds.