ACHIEVERS SPOTLIGHT
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Obesity – a weighty burden

Weight Management

In the EU, nearly 1 in 6 adults is obese. And the figures are increasing.

Almost a third of the world’s population is overweight or obese. According to McKinsey, the global economic impact of obesity amounts to approximately $2 trillion annually, “nearly equivalent to the global impact of smoking or of armed violence, war and terrorism.”1

Here in Europe, results of the European Health Interview Survey reveal that more than half of all adults (52%) are considered overweight; of these, 36% are pre-obese and 16% obese. This means that in the EU, nearly one adult in six is considered obese. Normal-weight adults are now in the minority.2

Obesity is related to age and education

Obesity is a serious public health problem that can be statistically measured using the body mass index (BMI), defined as bodyweight in kilograms divided by the square of body height in metres. “Overweight” starts at BMI 25, “pre-obesity” starts at BMI 27 and “obesity” at BMI 30.

When having a closer look at age groups and level of education, the share of obese adults clearly varies. The older the group, the higher the share of obese adults. For example, in the group of 65–74-year-olds, 22% are considered obese, compared to below 6% in the group of 18–24-year-olds. The pattern is also true for education level: the proportion of obese adults in the EU falls as the education level rises.

The share of obesity varies from one country to another, owing to differences in socioeconomic factors, family structures, eating behaviour and food traditions across Europe.3,4

Looking more closely at selected countries, the lowest shares of obesity are recorded in Romania (9.4 %) and Italy (10.7 %), followed by Sweden (14.0 %). At the opposite end of the scale, obesity affects more than one in five adults in the UK, Hungary and Turkey.

Attaining realistic weight-loss goals

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1 “Overcoming obesity: An initial economic analysis”, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). 2 E. Commission, (2016), European Health Interview Survey: Almost 1 adult in 6 in the EU is considered obese, Eurostat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7700898/3-20102016-BP-EN.pdf/c26b037b-d5f3-4c05-89c1-00bf0b98d646, M.R. Institut, (2008), Nationale Verzehrsstudie II, https://www.mri.bund.de/de/institute/ernaehrungsverhalten/forschungsprojekte/nvsII/. 3 S. Parikka et al (2015). Associations between parental BMI, socioeconomic factors, family structure and overweight in Finnish children: a path model approach. BMC Public Health. 15, pp. 271. 4 W. Van Lippevelde et al. Associations between family-related factors, breakfast consumption and BMI among 10- to 12-year-old European children: the cross-sectional ENERGY-study. PLoS One. 8, pp. e79550.

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