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Trends: Adults

Trends in adults globally

Last updated 12-07-2019

Rates of overweight and obesity have increased rapidly across the world over recent decades. This trend has been seen in high-income countries and is increasingly a public health concern for middle-income countries. Some of the highest obesity rates are in Pacific Island countries such as Samoa, Tonga and Nauru, where traditional diets have been replaced with imported, nutrient-poor processed foods.

Key Evidence

01

Around the world, 10.8% of men and 14.9% of women are obese

02

The US has the highest rate of obesity in the developed world

03

Overweight and obesity in the US has risen from 47.1% to 71% in recent decades

Obesity rates around the world

A large study of adult body mass index in 186 countries (covering 99% of the world’s population) found that global obesity rates increased from 3.2% in 1975 to 10.8% in 2014 for men; and from 6.4% to 14.9% for women.1

During that period, the number of obese people worldwide rose from 105 million to 641 million.2 The rapid rise of obesity can be seen in this animated map.

Some of the highest obesity rates are now found in Pacific Island countries such as Samoa, Tonga and Nauru. Other countries topping the table include six English-speaking nations – the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand – that are home to almost a fifth of the world’s obese population.2

Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries

NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19.2 million participants. The Lancet, 2016; 387(10026):1377-1396.

Note: data is age-standardised

Men Women

Overweight and obesity in the developed world

Australia now has one of the highest rates of obesity in the developed world. This graph shows rates of overweight and obesity for those aged 15 years and older in a selection of countries that are part of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).3

A snapshot of obesity in the developed world

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Health Statistics 2018. Paris, France 2018. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/health-data.htm

Note: Data is for age 15+, 2017 or nearest year

Percent

Obesity is increasing throughout the developed world and has followed a similar trend in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. This graph shows how population rates of obesity have risen in these countries over recent decades for those aged 15 years and older.4

Overweight and obesity trends in the developed world

OECD (2018), Overweight or obese population (indicator). Available from https://data.oecd.org/healthrisk/overweight-or-obese-population.htm

Note: Data is for age 15+

Australia Canada New Zealand Great Britain United States

References

1. NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19.2 million participants. The Lancet, 2016; 387(10026):1377-1396.
2. Hallett R, Watch 40 years of the world getting fatter in this animated map, World Economic Forum, 16 November 2016. https://www.weforum.org/
3. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Health Statistics 2018. Paris, France 2018. Available from: http://www.oecd.org/els/health-systems/health-data.htm
4. Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (2018), Overweight or obese population (indicator). Available from https://data.oecd.org/