New estimates indicate that obesity is the most common form of malnutrition in many countries | World Obesity Federation

New estimates indicate that obesity is the most common form of malnutrition in many countries

NewsNew estimates indicate that obesity is the most common form of malnutrition in many countries

Ahead of World Obesity Day 2024, new global estimates on malnutrition were published in The Lancet by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO).

The study provides new data estimates for adults and children living with obesity and underweight around the world, and paints a detailed picture of the global trends in both forms of malnutrition over the past 33 years. 

To guide your analysis, we have compiled some of the key findings:

  • In 2022, more than one billion people in the world were living with obesity (1 in 8 people).
    • The number of women and men with obesity in 2022 was 504 million and 374 million, respectively, which was an increase of 377 million and 307 million, respectively, from 1990.
    • The number of girls and boys with obesity in 2022 was 65.1 million and 94.2 million, respectively, an increase of 51.2 million and 76.7 million, respectively, from 1990.
    • The countries with the largest absolute numbers of adults with obesity in 2022 were the USA, China, and India.
  • Worldwide, obesity among adults has more than doubled since 1990, and has quadrupled among children and adolescents (5 to 19 years of age).
  • The global age-standardised prevalence of obesity increased from 8.8% in 1990 to 18.5% in 2022 in women and from 4.8% to 14.0% in men.
  • The global age-standardised prevalence of obesity in school-aged children and adolescents increased from 1.7% in 1990 to 6.9% in 2022 in girls and from 2.1% to 9.3% in boys.
    • The largest increases in child and adolescent obesity were in the island nations of Polynesia and Micronesia and the Caribbean, Brunei, and Chile.
  • The US is the only high-income country that features in the ten worst affected countries – with the 10th highest obesity rate in men.
  • Countries with the lowest obesity rates are generally low-income countries with high rates of under-nutrition, with a few exceptions such as Japan and Viet Nam.
  • As a result of increasing obesity prevalence and declining underweight prevalence, obesity is now the most common form of malnutrition in most countries.

The study, which analysed the weight and height measurements of over 220 people aged five years or older in over 190 countries, is considered to provide the best obesity estimates that are comparable across countries. The country estimates, however, are dependent on the nature of the available data in each country (if any). While many countries undertake some level of obesity monitoring and surveillance, standards still vary widely between them and if the surveillance methods do not meet the specified criteria e.g. using self-report height and weight rather than measured, they cannot be included in the analysis.

World Obesity has long called for improved obesity monitoring and surveillance.

On World Obesity Day 2020, the global obesity community developed the ROOTs framework which set out an integrated and comprehensive approach to addressing obesity. It was notable that one of the ‘O’s was for monitoring and surveillance.

The framework was accompanied by recommendations for immediate action to improve the status quo.

More about the ROOTs of obesity

Yet still we have insufficient national-level monitoring and surveillance of obesity. In recent years, in particular, we have seen planned surveys and research put on hold as public health attention was diverted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many surveys went online rather than in-person and many have been slow to revert to face-to-face measurements. Researchers may therefore find a discord between the data displayed for their country within this paper and the data they find available elsewhere for their country.

We call for more investment and political prioritisation of obesity monitoring and surveillance so that governments and policymakers around the world can better keep track of progress or the lack thereof. Fully funded and regular national health surveys should be a national priority to help monitor obesity and other communicable and non-communicable diseases. It is only then that we can consistently track our progress in meeting national and international targets.

World Obesity Atlas 2024

Our 2024 Atlas provides a comprehensive overview of obesity rates and trends worldwide, with clear projections as to how the trajectory of the fallout from obesity is likely to affect the world.

Atlas 2024