It’s well known that being overweight comes with its own list of stigmas and prejudices that further feed the insecurities that impact a person’s self-image. But past the superficiality of appearance, being overweight poses serious health risks. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that each year, at least 2.8 million people die from being overweight or obese. WHO also reports that 65 percent of the earth’s total population lives in (both rich and poor) countries where more people die from being overweight than from being underweight and malnourished. It may seem like growing obesity rates are a smaller issue than the fact that many individuals around the world go hungry, but evidently, this is not the case.
Increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer are the very real consequences of unmanaged weight gain and these are the causes of death for millions of people worldwide every year. A number of cultures consider excess weight a marker of good health and beauty, but with the numbers and the reported dangers of obesity rapidly growing, it’s clear that it’s a spreading problem in many parts of the world that requires both consideration and preventative measures.
There are a number of factors involved in creating an overweight society: A highly consumerist mentality, strategically catered to by the affordability of highly processed food made possible by global free trade (there exists a strong correlation between food prices and how much food people consume) paired with an urbanized, commodified lifestyle that restricts physical activity and exercise, and an overall poor health regime are obvious factors that contribute to the bulging overweight rate in some of earth’s most populated countries.
With awareness of this global problem, many of us are making more consciously healthy choices - yet, even in several economically advanced countries, the healthy choices can often be more expensive and more time-consuming. The following list details 5 highly populated countries which have some of the highest percentages of obese adults in the world, based on statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
5 Argentina: 29.4 % Adult Obesity
With a total population of 43, 024, 374, Argentina is one of the more highly populated countries. 29.4 percent of all adults in Argentina are obese, making it the fattest of all Latin American countries. One of the leading causes of preventable death in this country is obesity, which is second only to smoking. Diabetes and heart disease are two major weight-related illnesses that are not only affecting obese adults, but also the large number of obese children in Argentina. Much of the obesity problem is attributable to the fact that for many families that have moved to urban areas during the past decade, a new diet and lifestyle must be adapted to - one in which low-quality foods are more affordable than healthy alternatives. This paired with the fact that most urban jobs require little physical activity makes for an increasing weight problem in the cities.
4 South Africa: 33.5 % Adult Obesity
The problem of obesity in South Africa is one that leaves nobody out; it’s a prevalent health concern for both lower and upper classes. The country is home to a total population of 48, 375, 645, and 33.5 percent of all adults are obese. A study conducted by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)—a marketing consulting firm—determined that of 500 South Africans who were surveyed, only 34 percent considered themselves overweight or obese although 74 percent believe that other South Africans are obese. The survey also revealed how 65 percent of the South Africans interviewed consider junk food to be less expensive than healthy food. But only 47 percent of citizens surveyed felt that their government should help address the obesity issue through preventative actions.
3 United States: 31.8% Adult Obesity
With a population of 318,892,103, the U.S. is a highly populated country with the third highest obesity rate for adults. 31.8 percent of all adults are overweight and this is no great surprise, since the U.S. is notorious for large portions and over-indulgence in junk food. Two thirds of adult Americans are overweight (with almost a third obese) and these rates higher for African-American and Hispanic men and women than Caucasian. Overall, obesity is higher among American women at 8.3 percent, than men at 4.4 percent.
What’s more worrisome is the fact that obesity accounts for one in ten deaths in the U.S. and costs about $147 billion annually in medical costs — over one quarter of total health care costs — a rate that’s doubled in less than ten years. One of the main causes behind such high obesity rates in the U.S. is the sedentary lifestyle most Americans lead working at desk jobs and participating in a car culture. These things, aggravated by a poor diet and lack of health education, make for a fast spreading problem. Only about 5 percent of Americans engage in exercise on a regular basis; yet, according to health experts, a simple 30 minutes of walking a day can help manage weight.
2 Mexico: 32.8 % Adult Obesity
Mexico has a population of 120, 286,655 and 32.8 percent of all adults are overweight or obese. 70 percent of Mexicans are overweight and about one-third are obese — a shocking statistic to say the least. Over 400, 000 cases of weight-related diabetes are being diagnosed in Mexico every year and one in every six Mexicans die from this serious illness, averaging to about 70,000 people each year. A major factor contributing to the high obesity rates plaguing the Mexican people is the fact that healthier alternatives like vegetables and fresh fruits are typically more expensive than fatty, highly processed foods. It then becomes a question of what’s affordable and more readily available for the consumer to eat.
1 Egypt: 34.6 % Adult Obesity
Egypt has a total population of 86, 895, 099 and 34.6 percent of all adult Egyptian citizens are obese. This percentage marks Egypt as the most overweight of all African countries. Over 60 percent of all Egyptians are overweight and 17 percent suffer from weight-related diabetes. The rate of obese and overweight women is double that of men. With men and women living in urban areas more likely to become obese than those living in rural areas, it’s evident that city life - comprising desk jobs, fast food outlets and cars - has a great deal to do with individuals become overweight.