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29 May, 2014

Good news for health & wellness sector: Obesity rising in OECD countries

Paris, 27/05/14 (OECD news release) – Most people in OECD countries are overweight or obese. The social and economic consequences of this epidemic are dramatic, exposing an increasing number of people to chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

New OECD data and analysis reveal that obesity levels have continued to rise in most countries over the past five years, but more slowly than before. Obesity has been virtually stable in England, Italy, Korea, and the United States but has increased by 2-3% in Australia, Canada, France, Mexico, Spain, and Switzerland.

One in five children is overweight, on average, in OECD countries, but rates are as high as one in three in countries like Greece, Italy, Slovenia and the US. However, more countries have managed to stabilise or even slightly reduce rates of child obesity than they have of adult obesity.

OECD data show that obesity is also an inequality issue, especially in women. The economic crisis has made families spend less on food, but poor households have also switched to junk foods with high calories. But in countries with very high levels of obesity, such as Mexico and the US, people with more education are now as likely to be obese as those with less education.

OECD health expert Michele Cecchini will present the new data in a keynote address at the European Congress on Obesity, opening tomorrow in Sofia, Bulgaria. “The economic crisis may have contributed to a further growth in obesity, but most governments need to do more to stop this rising tide” says Cecchini.

The 8-page report Obesity Update, individual country notes and data in Excel are available at www.oecd.org/health/obesity-update.htm.