Demographics of Obesity
Obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. There are more than 1 billion overweight adults, at least 300 million of them obese. According to the WHO, obesity has an increasing impact on both developed and developing countries. In low-income countries, obesity is more common in middle-aged women, people of higher socioeconomic status and those living in urban communities. In more affluent countries, obesity is common not only in the middle-aged, but is also becoming increasingly prevalent among younger adults and children. Furthermore, it tends to be associated with lower socioeconomic status, especially in women, and the urban–rural differences are diminished or even reversed.
Obesity in Europe
The prevalence of obesity has tripled in Europe since the 1980s, and the numbers of those affected continue to rise, particularly among children. Obesity is already responsible for 2-8% of health costs and 10-13% of deaths in different parts of Europe. According to 2008 data collected by the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO), England and Scotland has the highest prevalence of obesity in women at between 25 and 26 %. Combined obesity and overweight is reported to be the highest among men in Cyprus (72 %) and for women in Scotland (60%).
Obesity in the United States of America
Obesity among women has increased substanttially over the past decade. In 1996, only 16.7% of women were obese, and obesity rates among women ranged from 10.7% in Colorado to 21.4% in Louisiana. By 2006, in 39 States and Washington, DC, more than 21.4% of women were obese and State rates ranged from 17.6 % in Colorado to 33.5% in Mississippi.
Obesity among Women in Developing Countries
A 2000 study of obesity amongst women in developing countries found that:
- The percentage of obese women was 0.1% in South Asia, 2.5% in Sub-Saharan Africa, 9.6% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 15.4% in Central Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS), 17.2% in the Middle East and North Africa, and 20.7% in the USA.
- In very poor countries, such as in Sub-Saharan Africa, obesity levels were concentrated among urban and higher educated women. In more developed countries, such as those in Latin America and the CEE/CIS regions, obesity levels were more equally distributed in the general population.
- Obesity among women is a serious problem in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, and the CEE/CIS region.
- Obesity is less of a concern in Sub-Saharan Africa, China and South Asia.
- Rising national incomes in developing countries and increased 'Westernization' will most likely lead to increased levels of obesity in the future.
- R Martorell, "Obesity in women from developing countries", Nature, March 2000, Volume 54, Number 3, pages 247-252 [available at: http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v54/n3/abs/1600931a.html]