Facts & Statistics

Definitions of overweight and obese:

Unless otherwise indicated, the definitions used in the tables and figures below are those recommended by IOTF, using age and gender specific BMI cut-off points which equate to an adult BMI of 25 and 30. This approach defines overweight as the childhood equivalent of having a BMI of 25 or above (age and gender adjusted) and obese as the childhood equivalent of having a BMI of 30 and above (age and gender adjusted).

The latest estimates for the prevalence of overweight and obesity among school children in Europe are given in the figures below:

Figures for children aged 7-11
Figures for children aged 13-17

From these figures, a crude estimate of the overall percentage of children overweight and obese in the EU (25 member states) can be made.

EU 25:

  • Prevalence of overweight (including obese): 16-22%
  • Of which, prevalence of obesity: 4-6%

There are some 74 million school children (age 4-18) in the EU 25. From the prevalence estimates above, it is possible to calculate the following:

11.8m – 16.3m children are overweight and obese, of which 2.9m – 4.4m children are obese

These estimates are based on surveys collected during the 1990s and more recently. However, the figures have not been static. Rapid increases in the prevalence of overweight schoolchildren are being seen in all EU countries for which data are available. The numbers indicated a lag of 10-15 years behind USA.

See trends in prevalence data

The rise in child overweight has been particularly strong in the most recent years. If we take all surveys where two comparable populations (location, age) have been measured a few years apart, then the year on-year increases (annualised changes in prevalence) can be shown.

Data for 28 such pairs of surveys undertaken in Europe show these rising trends: annual increases in prevalence of around 0.2% of the child population were found during the 1970s, 0.2%-0.6% during the 1980s, and 0.3%-0.8% in the early 1990s and possibly as high as 2.0% in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

See trends in annualised changes in prevalence data

Conservative estimate for 2005 compared with 2004:
400,000 – 600,000 more children overweight
of which 80,000 – 130,000 obese

On this basis, there will be over 20 million overweight children (of which 5 million will be obese) within a decade, despite a decline in the European population of children.