OBESITY STATISTICS

Last Updated:

11 April 2020

>2.8

MILLION

YEARLY DEATHS

 "Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese. "

- World Health Organization

200%

Worldwide obesity has nearly

tripled since 1975.

INCREASE

2.2

In 2017, more than 2.2 billion

adults, 18 years or older, were

overweight. Of these over 650 million have obesity.

BILLION

Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

>65

POPULATION

41

MILLION
CHILDREN

More than 41 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2018.

39%

OVERWEIGHT

13%

OBESE

39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were living with obesity.

DIABETES

HEART DISEASE

CANCER

44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden, and between 7% to 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.

Obesity is preventable!
Find resources in our Get Healthy Blogs

What are obesity and overweight?


Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).




Definitions


For adults, WHO defines overweight and obesity as follows:

  • overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25; and
  • obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals. For children, age needs to be considered when defining overweight and obesity. Charts and tables: WHO child growth standards for children aged under 5 years Charts and tables: WHO growth reference for children aged between 5–19 years




Obesity facts and statistics


Some recent WHO and GBD global estimates follow.

  • In 2017, more than 2.2 billion adults aged 18 years and older were overweight. Of these over 650 million adults have obesity.
  • In 2016, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over (39% of men and 40% of women) were overweight.
  • Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese in 2016.
  • The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016.




What causes overweight and obesity?


The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:

  • an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat and sugars; and
  • an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.
Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education.




What are common health consequences of overweight and obesity?


Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as:

  • cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012;
  • diabetes;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
  • some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).
The risk for these noncommunicable diseases increases, with increases in BMI.




Facing double burden of disease and malnutrition


Many low- and middle-income countries are now facing a "double burden" of malnutrition.

  • While these countries continue to deal with the problems of infectious diseases and undernutrition, they are also experiencing a rapid upsurge in noncommunicable disease risk factors such as obesity and overweight, particularly in urban settings.
  • It is not uncommon to find undernutrition and obesity co-existing within the same country, the same community and the same household.
Children in low- and middle-income countries are more vulnerable to inadequate pre-natal, infant, and young child nutrition. At the same time, these children are exposed to high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt, energy-dense, and micronutrient-poor foods, which tend to be lower in cost but also lower in nutrient quality.




Childhood obesity


In 2018, an estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight or obese. Once considered a high-income country problem, overweight and obesity are now on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings. In Africa, the number of overweight children under 5 has increased by nearly 50 per cent since 2000. Nearly half of the children under 5 who were overweight or obese in 2018 lived in Asia. Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.




How can overweight and obesity be reduced?


Overweight and obesity, as well as their related noncommunicable diseases, are largely preventable. Supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, by making the choice of healthier foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (the choice that is the most accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing overweight and obesity. At the individual level, people can:

  • limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;
  • increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts; and
  • engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes spread through the week for adults).
Individual responsibility can only have its full effect where people have access to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, at the societal level it is important to support individuals in following the recommendations above, through sustained implementation of evidence based and population based policies that make regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to everyone, particularly to the poorest individuals. An example of such a policy is a tax on sugar sweetened beverages. The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:
  • reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;
  • ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;
  • restricting marketing of foods high in sugars, salt and fats, especially those foods aimed at children and teenagers; and
  • ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.




Obesity as a Disease


The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a policy that recognized obesity as a chronic disease state. June 18, 2013 - the AMA House Delegates (HOD) voted on a resolution to adopt a new policy recognizing obesity as a “disease requiring a range of medical interventions to advance obesity treatment and prevention.” Dr. Ethan Lazarus, President-Elect for the Obesity Medicine Association acknowledged that “First, classifying obesity as a disease will reduce weight bias. It means that medical students and residents will receive training in what obesity is and in the best treatment approaches. It communicates that this is a chronic disease, not a problem of personal responsibility,” said Dr. Lazarus during an AMA reference committee hearing. “Second, recognizing obesity as a disease will improve health outcomes for millions of individuals.” Obesity Medicine Association. (2013, June 19). AMA House of Delegates Adopts Policy to Recognize Obesity as a Disease [News post]. Retrieved from https://obesitymedicine.org/ama-adopts-policy-recognize-obesity-disease/





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