Higher obesity rates causing Kiwis to need knee surgery younger

  • 08/06/2022

Kiwis are needing knee surgery a lot younger due to obesity rates significantly increasing after the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

Overweight and obese patients are at a much higher risk for knee surgery, as excess weight puts added stress on joints, particularly knees, causing pain and worsening arthritis damage.

With over a third of New Zealanders classified as obese, as measured by BMI, knee surgery wait lists are expected to grow.

Studies have found weight loss reduces the symptoms that lead to knee surgery, but Health Coalition Aotearoa Chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said it's not as simple as just losing weight.

"Anybody who does have obesity has probably tried several times to lose weight, this is not an easy thing to do," Prof Swinburn told the AM show.

He said it would be hard to apply a modest weight loss criteria for people needing to get knee surgery.

"That's throwing up a barrier for people to be able to get surgery and rather discriminating against people with obesity," he said.

Prof Swinburn said government intervention is needed to help obesity rates in New Zealand and subsequently decrease the number of people needing knee surgery.

"We have successive governments doing very little actually in the last 10 to 20 years around the obesity epidemic and we really do need some action," he said.

Watch the full interview above.