Global Health Observatory (GHO) data

Overweight and obesity

Adults aged 18+

Overweight and obesity lead to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. Risks of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke and type 2 diabetes mellitus increase steadily with increasing body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight relative to height. Raised body mass index also increases the risk of cancer of the breast, colon, prostate, endometrium, kidney and gall bladder. Mortality rates increase with increasing degrees of overweight, as measured by body mass index. To achieve optimum health, the median body mass index for an adult population should be in the range of 21 to 23 kg/m2, while the goal for individuals should be to maintain body mass index in the range 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2. There is increased risk of co-morbidities for body mass index 25.0 to 29.9, and moderate to severe risk of co-morbidities for body mass index 30 or greater.

In 2014, 39% of adults aged 18+ were overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) (39% men and 40% of women). In 2014, 39% of adults aged 18+ were overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) (39% of men and 40% of women) and 13% were obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) (11% of men and 15% of women). Thus, nearly 2 billion adults worldwide are overweight and, of these, more than half a billion are obese.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity were highest in the WHO Regions of the Americas (61% for overweight in both sexes, and 27% for obesity) and lowest in the WHO Region for South East Asia (22% overweight in both sexes and 5% for obesity). In the WHO Region of the Americas and European and Eastern Mediterranean Regions over 50% of women were overweight. In all three of these regions, roughly half of overweight women are obese (25% in Europe, 24% in the Eastern Mediterranean, 30% in the Americas). In all WHO regions women were more likely to be obese than men. In the WHO African, Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions, women had roughly double the obesity prevalence of men.

The prevalence of raised body mass index increases with the income level of countries. The prevalence of overweight in high income countries was more than double that of low and lower middle income countries. For obesity, the overall prevalence is over four times higher in high income countries compared to low income countries. Women's obesity was markedly higher than men's, with the exception of high income countries where it was similar. In low and lower middle income countries, obesity among women was more than double that among men.