Australian childhood obesity expected to double by 2035


Wednesday, 08 March, 2023

Australian childhood obesity expected to double by 2035

Over half of the global population is expected to have a high body mass index (BMI ≥25kg/m²) by 2035 and one in four people will be living with obesity (BMI ≥30kg/m²) compared to one in seven today, according to the World Obesity Federation.

The World Obesity Atlas 2023, compiled by the World Obesity Federation, presents a series of obesity prevalence projections for the period 2020 to 2035. If prevention, treatment and support do not improve, the global economic impact of obesity will reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035, it predicts.

The World Obesity Federation said that at almost 3% of global GDP, this is comparable with the impact of COVID-19 in 2020.

The majority of the global population (51%, or over four billion people) will fall into the overweight or obese category by 2035 if current trends prevail. Nearly two billion people (one in four) will have obesity.

Childhood obesity could more than double by 2035 (from 2020 levels). Rates are predicted to double among boys to 208 million (100% increase) and more than double among girls to 175 million (125% increase) and are rising more rapidly among children than adults.

For the Western Pacific region specifically, the prevalence of obesity is likely to increase by 2035. The Atlas predicts that obesity in boys will rise from 19% in 2020 to 41% in 2035; for girls, obesity is anticipated to escalate from 9% in 2020 to 28% in 2035.

For adults in the region, an increase is also expected but not at the same rate as children and adolescents. Obesity in men is predicted to increase from 8% in 2020 to 19% in 2035; for women the predicted rise is from 9% in 2020 to 16% in 2035.

Economically the impact of high BMI (BMI ≥25kg/m²) in the region is predicted to grow from US$412 billion (1.7% total regional GDP) to US$1560 billion (2.8% of total regional GDP) in 2035.

The World Obesity Federation calls for comprehensive national action plans to help countries act on new World Health Organization (WHO) Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Obesity. The Atlas report was presented at a high-level policy event on 6 March to UN policymakers, member states and civil society.

Prof Louise Baur, President of the World Obesity Federation, said, “This year’s Atlas is a clear warning that by failing to address obesity today, we risk serious repercussions in the future.

“It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents. Governments and policymakers around the world need to do all they can to avoid passing health, social and economic costs on to the younger generation.

“That means looking urgently at the systems and root factors that contribute to obesity, and actively involving young people in the solutions. If we act together now, we have the opportunity to help billions of people in the future.”

In 2013, member states of WHO committed to halt the increase in obesity rates at 2010 levels by 2025. No country is on track to meet these targets.

Acknowledgement of the economic impact is in no way a reflection of blame on people living with obesity, which is a chronic, relapsing disease.

Image credit: iStock.com/NelliSyr

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