Jul 13, 2017

2.2 billion worldwide are obese or overweight

2.2 billion people — one-third of the world's population — are obese or overweight, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study, which used data from the most recent Global Burden of Disease study, spanned 35 years and 195 countries, providing a new level of granularity concerning the world's biggest public health crisis:

Key takeaways:

  • Look up: Our visualization of the study's data shows the change in obesity rates for adults from 1980 to 2015, broken down by sociodemographics, and the takeaway is clear: except for a few outliers, the proportion of populations that are obese or overweight is increasing — especially in more developed countries.
  • The visible trend: As the level of a country's development increased so did the prevalence of obesity in men but for women, there was a larger increase in countries with a lower sociodemographic index.
  • Another big thing: The study showed that while fewer children are obese as a percentage of the population (5%) compared to adults (12%), the rates of childhood obesity are increasing much more rapidly in many places, presenting a health risk for the future.
  • Possible causes: Increased accessibility to energy-dense foods and a marked global increase in urbanization that can reduce chances for physical activity, though the authors note a shift to urban-living happened before the global increase in obesity.
  • The impact: The study looked at the effects of high body mass index and its myriad physical impacts over 25 years, finding that 7.1% of deaths worldwide in 2015 could be directly attributed to excess weight. That rate jumped 28.3% from 1990 to 2015. Unsurprisingly, it also contributed to a massive spike in years of life lost to disability and related diseases.
  • Worth considering: Nearly 40% of the 4 million deaths in 2015 linked to excess body weight occurred among people who weren't yet classified as obese, showing that simply being overweight can be a serious health risk.
Go deeper