Obesity rates in Europe have been rising and are now a serious public health concern, even though at a range of 7.6% to 24.7% they are much lower than those in the USA which stand at 26.8% for females and 27.6% for males, says a European Health Interview Survey, published by the statistical office of the European Union, Eurostat.
A person is obese when their BMI (body mass index) is over 30.
The authors reported that, among the 19 European states in this survey, obesity rates are higher among females in eight states, higher among males in ten, and the same in one.
Among the countries with the lowest obesity rates in 2008/9 were:
- Romania - 8.0% for adult females, and 7.6% for adult males
- Italy - 9.3% for adult females, and 11.3% for adult males
- Bulgaria - 11.3% for adult females, and 11.6% for adult males
- France - 12.7% for adult females, and 11.7% for adult males
- United Kingdom - 23.9%
- Malta - 21.1%
- Latvia - 20.9%
- Estonia - 20.5% Among Males
- Malta - 24.7%
- United Kingdom - 22.1%
- Hungary - 21.4%
- Czech Republic - 18.4%
Adult Male Rates
Obesity rates and ageThe authors found that the proportion of people who are obese varies according to age groups.
Among females, obesity rates clearly rise in parallel with age - a higher percentage of older females are obese, compared to younger females; this pattern was found in all European member states - markedly so in Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The percentage of younger female adults in the United Kingdom who are obese is particularly high, the researchers noted.
In 12 member states the male 65-74 age group had the highest obesity rates, while in the other 7 states it was the 45-64 age group.
The greatest variations in obesity rates between age groups in men were found in Malta, Hungary and the United Kingdom. In the UK, the obesity rate among men aged from 45 to 64 is particularly high, as it is in Malta in the 23-44 age group.
The impact of education on obesity ratesAdult females - in all member states, obesity rates are inversely proportional to women's level of education, i.e. the more educated they are, the lower the prevalence. In Malta, Greece, Poland and Slovakia this is markedly so.
Adult males - in 11 member states the highest obesity rates exist among people with the lowest levels of education, while in five state this occurs among those with a medium educational level. In Estonia and Bulgaria obesity prevalence is higher among individuals with a high educational level.
Written by Christian Nordqvist