According to the study, about 29% of the world's population is overweight or obese.
The obesity problem goes far beyond the United States, impacting about 2.1 billion people worldwide, according to a study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The study also found that about two out of three of the people considered obese (and part of the 29%) live in developing countries. With that said, obesity in America is no better, and the study found the U.S. to be one of the heaviest countries, housing 13 of the world's 29%.
The obesity statistics have been growing rapidly since the 1980s. Between 1980 and 2013, the number of obese and overweight adults rose by 27.5% for adults and 47.1% for kids. In 1980, 857 million people were considered overweight or obese. Today, 2.1 billion people are facing issues with being overweight. The data for the study, which was reported by The Wall Street Journal, was gathered by documenting the heights and weights of people in 183 countries. Broken down by gender, the study showed that 36.9% of men and 38% of women are overweight or obese.
Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said that not a single country reported a significant decrease in obesity or overweight numbers during the period the study analyzed. To him, this shows that any policies in place to address this epidemic are not having an effect on the population.
Murray also noted that in South Africa, 42% of the women are obese. The country constantly battles malnutrition and HIV/AIS, Murray explained, but it also deals with chronic conditions that lead to weight gain. In Tonga, 52.4% of men are obese. Similarly, in Tonga, Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, more than 50% of women are obese.
The numbers in developed countries are just as startling. 23.8% of boys and 22.6% of girls in developed countries were considered overweight or obese in 2013. Middle Eastern and North African countries are facing particularly high rates of childhood obesity.
The World Health Organization set a goal to stop the rise in obesity rates by 2025, but the authors of the study say it is "very ambitious and unlikely to be attained without concerted action and further research."
"I think of obesity as uniquely concerning because it's one of the top health risks," Murray said, and "it's the only one going up."