Society

Obesity Rates Across Europe

Turkey has the highest obesity rate of any country in Europe.

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What Is Obesity?

Obesity is a health condition of excessive body fat or being overweight that affects millions of people worldwide. An individual with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more is generally considered to be obese, while a BMI of equal to or greater than 25 is classified as overweight. Research shows that obesity increases an individual's risk of developing many diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and several types of cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 13% of the global population is obese and 39% is overweight. 

Obesity in Europe

According to estimates, more than 50% of both women and men living in the WHO's European Region are overweight, while about 20% of men and 23% of women are obese. Estimates also suggest that the number of children in the WHO's European Region who are overweight also steadily increased between 1990 and 2008. The average obesity rate in Europe is 23.3%.

The 3 Most Obese Nations in Europe

Turkey

Obesity is a major health concern in Turkey, as it ranks as the fattest nation in Europe, with an obesity rate of 32.1%. In 1980, the country’s obesity rate was only 10.4%, but increased to 16.3% within a period of 10 years, and then reached 28.2% in 2010. Obesity affects women than men in Turkey, but both adult and childhood obesity are on the rise within the country.

Research suggests that lifestyle changes influenced by the Western world are responsible for Turkey's rising obesity rate. For example, Turkish youth are hooked on reality television and the internet, and are now less active. Additionally, Western fast-food chains have also caused a shift from healthy, traditional diets to fast-food diets in Turkey. Rapid urbanization and increased standards of living have also contributed to a more sedentary lifestyle.

In respose to increasing obesity rates, the Turkish government has introduced several health promotion campaigns aimed at reducing obesity. Such programs include Move for Health, Promoting Physical Activity Project, and Reducing Portion Sizes.

Malta

Obesity is a significant health concern in the Mediterranean island nation of Malta, and one that is associated with many diseases increasing government costs. With an obesity rate of 28.9, Malta is the fattest country in the European Union, and the second fattest in the WHO's European Region. One of the leading causes of Malta’s high obesity rate is physical inactivity. 

More men than women in Malta are obese, and obesity is more prevalent in older individuals. In fact, one of every three older persons in Malta is obese, while only one of 10 young adults is obese. Obesity is also more prevalent among people with lower levels of education.

It is believed that a shift from the traditional Maltese culture, which is generally linked to Malta's entry into the European Union, could have triggered the country's increasing obesity rate. In particular, the adoption of fast-food diets, accompanied by a lack of physical activity, are major factors. While persons with greater incomes can afford access to sport and fitness facilities, those with lower income levels tend to lead more sedentary lifestyles.

The Maltese government has introduced several measures designed to curb the country's obesity. For example, school cafeteria's are only allowed to offer healthy foods. Additionallly, the Healthy Weight for Life strategy has been launched by the government to promote healthy lifestyles.

United Kingdom

With an obesity rate of 27.8%, the United Kingdom (UK) is the third fattest country in Europe, and the fattest in Western Europe. One in five pregnant women in the UK have a BMI greater than 30. The World Obesity Federation has predicted that if obesity in the UK is not effectively tackled, the cost of treating obesity-related health problems will reach a whopping $31 billion per year in 2025.

Curbing Obesity

While most governments in European countries are attempting to tackle the obesity problems that affect their populations, it is possible to handle this health issue at an individual level. Healthy diets and regular exercise are key to reaching and maintaining healthy body weights.

List of the 15 Fattest Countries in Europe by Obesity Rate

RankCountryObesity Rate
1Turkey32.1%
2Malta28.9%
3United Kingdom27.8%
4Hungary26.4%
5Lithuania26.3%
6Israel26.1%
7Czech Republic26%
8Andorra25.6%
9Ireland25.3%
10Bulgaria25%
11Greece24.9%
12Belarus24.5%
13Croatia24.4%
14Ukraine24.1%
15Spain23.8%

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