Obesity is one of the largest health issues in Europe. In 2019, the share of overweight or obese adults across European countries ranged from 40 to over 65 percent. Iceland had the highest share in Europe during that year, with almost two-thirds of adults reported as overweight or obese. Childhood obesity is also a significant problem across Europe. There are numerous conditions and diseases which are more likely to affect a person if they are obese or overweight, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers.
The issue of obesity has been projected to become worse in the future if policies specifically constructed to combat the rising problem are not introduced and implemented. The WHO and the UN set a target for all its member states that by 2025 obesity levels should be held at the same rate as they were in 2010. However, a report released in 2021 regarded all EU countries and the UK as having a very poor chance of meeting this target among both men and women. Countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the United Kingdom were in fact classed as having a zero percent chance of meeting the targets among men by 2025. Furthermore, around one in six children in Greece and Hungary were forecast to be overweight in 2025, with many more European countries projected to have at least a childhood obesity prevalence of over ten percent.
Impact on health
Living with obesity is associated with a greater risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These NCDs can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of sufferers, affecting daily lives and the ability to carry out activities. In 2020, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and North Macedonia had the highest rates of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in Europe attributable to high BMI. DALYs is a metric that shows the health burden of certain diseases through the combination of years lived with a disease or disability and years lost from premature death. Awareness in some major European countries regarding the increased cancer risk resulting from being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle was found to be fairly low. Fewer than 30 percent of respondents to a survey in France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden thought that obesity increased a person’s chance of developing cancer.
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