Epidemiology of Obesity: The Global Situation

  • Youfa WangEmail author
  • Hyunjung Lim
Part of the Nutrition and Health book series (NH)


Obesity has become a serious public health threat in many industrialized and developing countries worldwide, and the problem continues to grow. Obesity has many health and financial consequences to individuals and society. Different measures have been used to classify overweight and obesity in adults and children, while body mass index (BMI) cut points have been widely used to define overweight and obesity. Different BMI cutoff point are being used over time and across countries at present. It is estimated in 2008 worldwide 35 % of adults aged ≥20 years were overweight and 11 % were obese; more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight. Of these, over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese. It is projected, except for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) African region (lack of data), the overall combined prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults and children is about 20–40 % in the WHO regions. In the United States, based on 2009–2010 national survey data, 66.8 % of adults were overweight or obese (BMI ≥ 30), and 35.9 % were obese (BMI ≥ 25). The prevalence of obesity varied across ethnic groups: ranging from 34.9 % in non-Hispanic whites to 49.6 % in non-Hispanic blacks. In the US children aged 2–19 years old, the combined prevalence is 31.8 % but varies by age and ethnicity. The US children aged 2–5 (26.7 %) and non-Hispanic whites (27.9 %) had the lowest prevalence among the age and ethnic groups, respectively. Overweight and obesity are largely preventable by having healthy lifestyles. The development of population-based intervention programs and related national policies is crucial to combat the obesity epidemic and promote public health globally.


Obesity Overweight Prevalence Trends World Global Body mass index 



American Medical Association


Body mass index


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


The International Association for the Study of Obesity


The International Obesity Task Force


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey


World Health Organization



This work is supported in part by research grants from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research (OBSSR), 1R01HD064685-01A1 and 1U54 HD070725.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Health ProfessionsUniversity at Buffalo, State University of New York, Johns Hopkins Global Center on Childhood Obesity, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBuffaloUSA
  2. 2.Department of Medical NutritionResearch Institute of Medical Nutrition, Graduate School of East–West Medical Science, Kyung Hee UniversityGyeonggi-doSouth Korea

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