Over 1 Billion People Worldwide Afflicted by Obesity

People Afflicted by Obesity (Credits: District Medical Group)

The prevalence of obesity has surpassed 1 billion people worldwide, emerging as the primary form of malnutrition. A recent study, published in The Lancet, reveals a significant surge in obesity rates among adults, more than doubling, and among children and adolescents, increasing fourfold between 1990 and 2022.

The study estimates that in 2022, approximately 159 million children and adolescents and nearly 880 million adults were grappling with obesity.

The World Health Organization defines adult obesity as a body mass index (BMI) equal to or exceeding 30 kilograms per square meter, while criteria for children vary based on age and sex.

Both men and women experienced substantial rises in obesity from 1990 to 2022. The research indicates that obesity rates among women surged from 8.8% to 18.5%, and among men, it escalated from 4.8% to 14.0%.

People Afflicted by Obesity (Credits: Mass General Brigham)

For children, the global obesity rate among girls rose from 1.7% in 1990 to 6.9% in 2022, and for boys, it increased from 2.1% to 9.3% during the same period, with upward trends observed in nearly all countries.

Over the period from 1990 to 2022, obesity rates quadrupled for children and doubled for adults. In contrast, smaller proportions were reported to be underweight across all categories.

Simultaneously, the study notes a significant decline in the total number of adults classified as underweight, with a BMI below 18.5 kg per square meter, dropping by more than half from 1990 to 2022.

This decline is reflected in women, falling from 14.5% to 7.0%, and in men, decreasing from 13.7% to 6.2%. Children also experienced single-digit decreases.

The study’s senior author, Majid Ezzati, a professor at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, expressed concern over the global obesity epidemic affecting both adults and school-aged children and adolescents.

Ezzati emphasized the need to address both forms of malnutrition by significantly improving the availability and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods.

Low-income and middle-income countries, especially those in Polynesia and Micronesia, the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa, witnessed substantial increases in obesity prevalence. Countries in these regions now boast obesity rates higher than many affluent, industrialized nations.

In 2022, the island nations of Tonga and American Samoa exhibited the highest prevalence of obesity among women, while American Samoa and Nauru had the highest rates among men, with over 60% of the adult population classified as obese.

Among children, the South Pacific island nations of Niue and the Cook Islands recorded the highest prevalence of obesity among both girls and boys, with over 30% living with obesity.

Conversely, countries with the highest prevalence of underweight individuals in 2022 included Eritrea and Timor-Leste for women and Eritrea and Ethiopia for men, with over 20% of the adult population classified as underweight.

Among children, India and Sri Lanka had the highest prevalence of underweight girls in 2022, while Niger and India had the highest underweight prevalence among boys.

While the United States does not lead in countries with the highest obesity prevalence, it has witnessed significant increases during the survey period. It exhibits higher rates than some other wealthy nations.

From 1990 to 2022, the U.S. adult obesity rate rose from 21.2% to 43.8% in women and from 16.9% to 41.6% in men, ranking the country 36th globally in obesity rates among women and 10th among men.

In contrast, the U.K.’s adult obesity rate increased from 13.8% in 1990 to 28.3% in 2022 for women, ranking 87th globally, and for men, it rose from 10.7% to 26.9%, placing it 55th for obesity.

Among children, the U.S. observed an increase in obesity rates from 11.6% in 1990 to 19.4% in 2022 for girls and from 11.5% to 21.7% in 2022 for boys. The U.S. ranked 22nd globally for obesity among girls and 26th among boys in 2022.

The study calls for a healthy nutrition transition that improves access to nutritious foods to address the remaining burden of underweight while curbing and reversing the increase in obesity.

Hi there, I am Elizabeth. I am an enthusiastic social worker and dancer. I recently graduated and have a huge interest in digital marketing and content writing. I love listening to music, and watching series and dramas; especially k-drama and kpop. I enjoy learning new languages as well.