With healthcare regularly commanding the headlines in the American mainstream and non-mainstream media, there is one related topic that gets almost no attention – health, particularly health as it relates to body weight. A recent updated analysis by the OECD looks at one key measure of health, that of obesity. Here is a summary of their findings.
The study looked at the obesity rate in the 35 nations that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and then compared the most recent obesity rates to those of the past. The study found that, across the OECD, more than one in two adults and one in six children are either obese or overweight and that the “obesity epidemic” has spread further in the past five years with projections showing that all nations will experience a continuing increase in obesity. That said, obesity rates for all 35 nations vary widely with a tenfold variation in obesity across the nations.
By a relatively wide margin, at 38.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States is considered obese followed by 32.4 percent in Mexico and 30.7 percent in New Zealand. The least obese nations include Japan with 3.7 percent of its population considered obese followed by Korea at 5.3 percent and Italy at 9.8 percent. In general, among OECD member nations, the obesity rate for women is slightly higher than the rate for men; this is particularly the case in Latvia, Turkey, Chile, Mexico and the United States. If we look outside the OECD, in the case of South Africa, 37 percent of women are obese compared to only 16 percent of men. That said, in general, male obesity has been growing more rapidly as the years have passed.
As was noted at the beginning of this posting, for many nations, the rate of obesity and the percentage of overweight persons has increased over the past few decades as shown on this graphic:
The future trend is not encouraging either. Here is a graphic showing the percentage of self-reported overweight children aged 15, comparing the rate in 2001 – 2002 to that of 2013 – 2014 for each OECD nation:
As you can see, for every nation that has data for both years, the percentage of overweight children has increased over the decade with one exception; Denmark.
With all of this data in mind, let’s look at the OECD’s projections for the future rates of obesity going out to 2030:
Given the growing percentage of overweight children, it certainly appears that the global trend is not favouring a decrease in obesity rates.
While Washington focuses on the partisan options for health care delivery, they are ignoring one of the most important factors in personal health; the maintenance of a healthy body weight. Until politicians address this growing crisis, the health care situation in the United States is likely to reach the critical stage where the system simply cannot handle the growing numbers of people with weight-related illnesses.
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