The Most Obese Countries In The World

By Jessica Dillinger on February 16 2018 in World Facts

Obesity has been a growing concern in countries around the world.

A person is considered obese if they have a body mass index of over 30. Approximately 3.4 million adults succumb to death every year as a result of being obese or overweight. The rise in obesity has been gradual but constant across the globe, with latest estimates suggesting that the world has over a billion obese people that is double the rate that existed 20 years ago. The data presented below comes from the latest report from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Correlation With Economics And Obesity 

The most obese countries in the world are not necessarily the richest or the most developed ones. The U.S. and the UK, which are ranked 12th and 36th, respectively, indicate there is no direct relationship between obesity and a country’s economic status. Countries with smaller economies, such as the Marshall IslandsSamoaPalau, and Nauru have made it to the top 10.

As per the World Health Organization, food scarcity and its rising prices are also responsible for obesity in underdeveloped nations such as Venezuela, where the public finds it difficult to eat a balanced, healthy diet. For these people, the option is filling up on empty calories with junk or fried food.

Adult Obesity in the United States

The United States is the most obese country in North America with 36.2% of its population having a body mass index of over 30.0. Nearly 78 million adults and 13 million children in the United States deal with the health and emotional effects of obesity every day. According to the CDC, an average adult is 26 pounds heavier now than in the 1950s.

Easily available calorie-rich processed food items and little awareness about balanced nutrition among citizens are the major reasons behind Mexico’s obese population that represent 28.9% of the total population. The obesity issue in the country began in the 1980s when vegetables and whole grains started getting replaced by processed food. In the past 5 years, Mexico has taken several steps to reduce its obesity rate.

World Obesity Rates

As aforementioned, topping the list of the world's most obese countries are small Pacific Island nations such as Samoa, Tonga, and Kiribati, to name a few. Approximately four of every five citizens in these countries are obese or overweight. The reason is that almost all of the food consumed in these island nations are imported and therefore expensive. However, fast-food chains offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative.

The Pacific island nations are closely followed by a string of Middle Eastern nations – Kuwait, QatarLibyaSaudi Arabia, and Egypt. Around three-quarters of the population in these countries is overweight and well over a third is considered obese. With scorching hot temperatures of up to 40 degree Celsius, regular ‘natural’ exercise such as walking is not common in these countries. Coupled with an increasing embrace for western fast-food restaurants in recent years, the waistlines in the Middle East have soared. Traditionally, the people here often share large community platters, making it difficult to keep track of portion size. 

Gender Disparity In Body Weight

In South-East Asia, Africa, and the East Mediterranean region, obesity among women is almost double the prevalence of obesity in men. The disparity in body fat distribution between women and men could be behind these numbers, but studies suggest that economic and social factors also play a role. In war-torn countries such as Syria, women are invariably restricted to their homes, giving them little scope to participate in sports or other outdoor activities.

Countries with the Highest Prevalence of Obesity

RankCountryPercentage of Population that is Obese
2Cook Islands55.9
4Marshall Islands52.9
12United States of America36.2
14Saudi Arabia35.4
20United Arab Emirates31.7
22New Zealand30.8

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