WHO is sounding the alarm: the majority of Europeans are overweight

  • Fairy Halberstadt

    OfFairy Halberstadt


During a press conference, the WHO reports on the rise in obesity in Europe. Obesity can have serious health consequences.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), overweight and obesity (obesity) have reached “epidemic proportions” in Europe. One in six adults and almost one in three children are overweight. This is indicated by a report presented Tuesday, May 3 in Copenhagen, at a press conference. Thus, obesity is responsible for more than 1.3 million deaths per year.

According to the WHO, obesity is a complex disease that increases the risk of many diseases. It’s not just about non-communicable diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and chronic respiratory disease. The disease is also considered a risk factor for at least 13 different types of cancer. The World Health Organization reports that obesity will overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in some countries.

Obesity in Europe at “epidemic proportions”: WHO sounds the alarm

The head of the WHO Office for the Prevention of Non-Communicable Diseases, Kremlin Wickramasinghe, called for a multi-pronged approach. The report also calls businesses, media and religious leaders to account. Concepts include restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods to children, taxing sugary drinks and adjusting health care. Possible measures are described in more detail on the WHO website:

  • Implementing fiscal interventions (such as taxing sugar-sweetened beverages or subsidizing healthy foods).
  • Restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.
  • Improve access to primary health care services for weight management within the framework of universal health coverage.
  • Efforts to improve diet and physical activity across the lifespan, including through antenatal and prenatal care and the promotion of breastfeeding, school-based interventions, and interventions to create supportive environments accessibility and affordability of healthy foods and opportunities improve physical activity.

Obesity: more and more people in Europe are overweight

The corona pandemic has also contributed to the rising obesity rate. As the WHO writes, he “came during the pandemic […] adverse changes in diets and exercise habits that will impact the health of the population for years to come and will require significant efforts to reverse them.

According to WHO Europe, people with a body mass index of 25 or more are considered overweight and those over 30 are considered obese.

© Lino Mirgeler/dpa

The highest rates of overweight and obesity are found in Mediterranean and Eastern European countries. Obesity is more common in less educated households than in more educated households. At the top of the list of countries with widespread obesity is Turkey with nearly 67% overweight, followed by Malta, Israel and Britain. At the bottom of the table are Tajikistan with 45% and Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with 48% each. Germany ranks in the bottom midfield with almost 57%. (F H)

List of sections: © Lino Mirgeler/dpa

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