Policy Maker Survey – Media Resources

For media inquiries contact Hester Rice at C3 Collaborating for Health:
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Media resource:

Obesity Facts & Figures:

Key facts

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980.
  • In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
  • 35% of adults aged 20 and over were overweight in 2008, and 11% were obese.
  • 65% of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
  • Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.
  • 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.
  • More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011.
  • Obesity is preventable.

What are overweight and obesity?

Overweight and obesity:

  • are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health;
  • have important consequences for morbidity, disability and quality of life;
  • entail higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, several common forms of cancer, osteoarthritis and other health problems; and
  • are serious public health challenges in the WHO European Region.


Overweight and obesity are often measured using the BMI (Body Mass Index) scale.  BMI:

  • is a simple index commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in schoolchildren and adults;
  • is calculated as a person’s weight (in kg) divided by his or her height (in m2); and
  • does not distinguish weight associated with muscle from weight associated with fat and therefore provides only a crude measure of fatness.

BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals.

The WHO definitions of overweight and obesity are:

  • a BMI greater than or equal to 25 is overweight
  • a BMI greater than or equal to 30 is obesity

WHO BMI Cut Off Points: (please note that cut-off points are lower for some ethnicities)

Category BMI range – kg/m2
Very severely underweight less than 15
Severely underweight from 15.0 to 16.0
Underweight from 16.0 to 18.5
Normal (healthy weight) from 18.5 to 25
Overweight from 25 to 30
Obese Class I (Moderately obese) from 30 to 35
Obese Class II (Severely obese) from 35 to 40
Obese Class III (Very severely obese) over 40

Obesity Facts and Statistics

WHO factsheet on obesity
WHO Global Database of BMI (adults)
Childhood Obesity Surveillance in the WHO European Region
WHO Europe Nutrition Policy Database
WHO ’10 Facts on Obesity’
WHO Global Health Observatory Overweight and Obesity (adults)
WHO Europe Obesity Publications
European Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health

Useful EASO Guidelines, Statement and Papers

2010: Evaluation of the Overweight/Obese Child – Practical Tips for the Primary Health Care Provider
2011: Practical Guide for the Parents of Overweight Children
2012: Joint statement of EASO and ESH: obesity and difficult to treat arterial hypertension
2012: Prevalence, Pathophysiology, Health Consequences and Treatment Options of Obesity in the Elderly: A Guideline
2012: European Obesity Research Conference: Executive Summary and Recommendations
2013: SSH Contribution to Tackling Obesity: Workshop Report
2013: Obesity: The Gateway to Ill Health – an EASO Position Statement on a Rising Public Health, Clinical and Scientific Challenge in Europe