Analysis: More than half of world will be overweight, obese by 2035

Childhood obesity expected to more than double from 2020 levels, report finds

By 2035, more than half the world is expected to have a body mass index that categorizes them as overweight or obese, according to report from the World Obesity Federation.

At that point, the health costs of that 51% of the world’s population (more than 4 billion people) will have an economic impact of $4.32 trillion — almost 3% of the global gross domestic product.

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“This is comparable with the impact of COVID-19 in 2020,” the foundation wrote in a press release.

“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,” professor Louise Baur, president of the World Obesity Federation, said in the press release. “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.”

Other findings of the report include:

  • Childhood obesity could more than double from 2020 levels. For boys, a 100% increase, to 208 million, is expected. For girls, rates could be up 125%, to 175 million.
  • Rapid increases in obesity will be prevalent in lower income countries. Nine of the 10 countries with the greatest expected increases in obesity are from Asia and Africa.
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“If we do not act now, we are on course to see significant increases in obesity prevalence over the next decade. The greatest increases will be seen in low and lower-middle income countries, where scarce resources and lack of preparedness will create a perfect storm that will negatively impact people living with obesity the most,” Rachel Jackson-Leach, director of science at World Obesity Federation, said in the press release.

Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation, added: “Let’s be clear: the economic impact of obesity is not the fault of individuals living with the disease. It is a result of high-level failures to provide the environmental, healthcare, food, and support systems that we all need to live happy, healthy lives. Addressing these issues will be valuable in so many ways, to billions of people. We simply cannot afford to ignore the rising rates of obesity any longer. We hope that the findings of this latest Atlas will convince policymakers and civil society to take action and make tangible commitments to change in their regions.”