Obesity Epidemic Surges in 10 OECD Nations

Obesity is a global challenge that affects millions of people and poses serious risks for various chronic diseases. However, obesity is not a simple problem that can be solved by individual choices alone. It is influenced by a complex interplay of environmental, social, genetic, and economic factors that vary across countries and regions. In this article, we will explore the latest data on self-reported obesity rates among adults in selected OECD countries in 2021 and rank the countries according to their obesity rates.

United States

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Obesity Rate – 33.5%

America tops our list, with over a third of the respondents from the US saying that they are obese. The obesity rate in the US continued to climb during the COVID-19 Pandemic, increasing by 3% between March 2020 and March 2021. Some of the factors that contribute to the high obesity rate in the United States are the availability and consumption of processed and fast foods, large portion sizes, sedentary lifestyles, lack of physical activity, and genetic and environmental influences.


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Obesity Rate – 26.4%

The obesity rate in Chile is a significant concern. The obesity figures are higher than the regional average for women and men in Latin America. The prevalence of obesity has doubled in Chile since 1980, making it a critical public health issue. To address this problem, the government has implemented several policies, including bold labels on packaging, sales restrictions, and a ban on advertising unhealthy foods to children.

United Kingdom

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Obesity Rate – 25.9%

Obesity is a serious health concern in the UK. According to a Health Survey for England 2021, 25.9% of adults in England are obese, and a further 37.0 are overweight but not obese. The leading causes of obesity are poor dietary habits and physical inactivity. Many people in the UK consume too much sugar, fat, and processed foods and not enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They also drink more sugary beverages than other European countries. Moreover, they do not meet the recommended levels of physical activity.


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Obesity Rate – 23.9%

Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe with a population of about 9.7 million. It is known for its rich cultural heritage, beautiful landscapes, and delicious cuisine. However, obesity rates have more than doubled in Hungary in 20 years, with one in four women and almost one in three men being obese today. Similar rates are also found in children. Hungary introduced a tax on selected manufactured foods with high sugar, salt, or caffeine content to fight this epidemic in 2011. Carbonated sugary drinks are among the products targeted by the new measure.


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Obesity Rate – 22.4%

Obesity is a big problem in Brazil, affecting a fifth of its population. Moreover, the share of Brazilians struggling with such conditions has risen in recent years. This trend is observed in both adult and child populations. Experts estimate that Brazil will have over 7.6 million children living with obesity by 2030, risking becoming one of the five nations with the largest number of minors with this condition in the world.


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Obesity Rate – 16.7%

Millions of people in Germany face health and well-being challenges due to obesity. According to the OECD, the obesity rate among adults in Germany is 16.7%, lower than the average of 18.4% among OECD countries. Obesity is more prevalent among people with lower education and income levels, indicating a social inequality in health outcomes. Despite the efforts of the government to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent obesity through various initiatives and policies, the situation has not improved significantly in the past decade. Germany needs to take stronger and more holistic actions to tackle the source and effects of obesity.


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Obesity Rate – 14.9%

Obesity is a grave health concern in Spain, affecting one in six adults. According to the OECD, weight issues account for 9.7% of health expenditures in Spain and lower labor market outputs by the equivalent of 479 thousand full-time workers per year. To tackle the obesity epidemic, Spain has implemented several policies, including voluntary front-of-pack food labeling, advertising restrictions, and taxes on sugary drinks.


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Obesity Rate – 14.4%

Obesity has doubled in France in the last 25 years. This serious health issue affects nearly one in six adults and one in six kids in France. Some regions with the highest obesity rates are Hauts-de-France, Grand Est, and Normandy. Some groups with the highest obesity rates are working-class professionals, young adults (18 – 24), and boys (8 – 17). To prevent and treat obesity, France has implemented various policies and programs, such as the National Nutrition and Health Program, which promotes healthy eating and physical activity.


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Obesity Rate – 12%

In Italy, about one in eight people are obese, with men being more affected than women. Obesity is more prevalent in some regions, such as Molise and Basilicata, where more than 15% of the population is obese. Obesity is a global problem that is getting worse, and Italy is no exception. In the past 30 years, the number of obese adults in Italy has risen by nearly a third. In Europe, obesity accounts for 2–4% of the total health expenditure, which is expected to double by 2050.


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Obesity Rate – 4.3%

Obesity is a low but rising health issue in Korea, where only 4.3% of people are obese. The Korean Society for the Study of Obesity (KSSO) was founded in 2000 to advance obesity research, education, and clinical practice. KSSO has been promoting obesity management through ongoing learning and clinical guidelines. The latest 2018 guidelines by KSSO aim to assist patients and inform doctors on how to treat obesity.


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