Highest and lowest rates of obesity in the world

The highest rates of obesity in the world are found in the small pacific islands,  Nauru, Cook Islands with close to 60% of the adult population meeting definition of obesity as measured by the BMI (body mass index)

Excluding these small pacific islands (with very small population) the greatest levels of obesity are found in the Gulf states (Kuwait 37.9%)) and the United States (36.2%) Obesity rates across the world have been increasing in recent decades.

In 2014, more than half the world’s obese people lived in ten countries including United States, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Highest rates of obesity in the world – top 25

obesity-rates-top-25

For this list, I excluded small islands, like Nauru and the Cook Islands.

Lowest levels of obesity

lowest-25-obesity-rates The countries with the lowest obesity rates tend to be low-income developing economies, though Japan is an exception.

Reasons for Obesity

  • Income – to some extent higher levels of GDP and national income are related to higher levels of obesity. The lowest levels of obesity are found in developing countries with low real GDP. However, there is not a direct link between income and obesity. Obesity levels are higher in North Africa and the Middle East (Syria, Iraq and Bahrain) than in western economies such as Scandanavia. Moving from very low real GDP to medium levels of GDP can cause a significant increase in obesity. However, there are also notable exceptions with high-income countries, such as Japan experiencing very low levels of obesity (just 4.3%)
  • Consumption of calories. There is a definite link between diet and the number of calories consumed and rates of obesity. In recent years, diets have become richer in calories, through the consumption of more meat, diary, fat-rich food and processed drinks/foods with high levels of added sugar. The Gulf states – one of the highest levels of obesity in the world has seen a 97% increase in meat consumption between 1973 and 2014. Latin America has experienced dramatic growth in obesity levels in the past few decades. There is a strong link with the consumption of high calory soft drinks.

The link between calory consumption and obesity

relationship-between-obesity-calories
Source: Our World in Data
  • Cultural factors. There are regional effects for levels of obesity. The cluster of high levels of obesity in the Pacific Islands is related to cultural trends in food and exercise. High levels of obesity in the gulf states are partly related to lack of exercise and the dramatic growth in high calorie fast-food outlets. (Obesity in Gulf States) Another factor is societies attitude to obesity. In some gulf states and north African countries, being fat can be seen an indicator of wealth and status so it is not necessarily viewed in a negative light as might in say Japan.
  • Obesity by gender
obesity-gulf-states-by gender
Source (l  NCBI)

In the gulf states, obesity levels are significantly higher amongst women – which could be related to different lifestyles and lower likelihood of being involved in exercise.

  • Modern lifestyles/lack of exercise. Obesity levels are often higher in urban areas than in agricultural areas. For example, in Saudi Arabia, obesity rates among children in rural areas are 4% – this contrasts with 22% in the capital Riyadh. This is related to the fact modern life promotes a sedentary lifestyle – with children using the car for transport. In rural agricultural areas, children are more active as they are involved in helping fishing/farming. (Pub Med)
  • The link with education. One study suggested education can have a link to obesity. In Syria, 51% of illiterate Syrians are obese while only 28% of people with a university education are obese. This could reflect the importance of knowing which foods and lifestyle can contribute to obesity.
  • Promotion of fast-food/soft-drinks. Latin American countries, in particular, have seen a strong correlation between the rapid growth of sugary soft-drinks and growing levels of obesity. Numerous studies have shown a direct link. For example

“Soft drink consumption increased globally from 9.5 gallons per person per year in 1997 to 11.4 gallons in 2010. A 1% rise in soft drink consumption was associated with an additional 4.8 overweight adults per 100.” 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300974

Growth of obesity in recent years

growth-of-obesity-ratesSource: Our World in Data

List of Obesity rates worldwide

Rank Country (%)
1 Nauru 61
2 Cook Islands 55.9
3 Palau 55.3
4 Marshall Islands 52.9
5 Tuvalu 51.6
6 Niue 50
7 Tonga 48.2
8 Samoa 47.3
9 Kiribati 46
10 Micronesia 45.8
11 Kuwait 37.9
12 United States 36.2
13 Jordan 35.5
14 Saudi Arabia 35.4
15 Qatar 35.1
16 Libya 32.5
17 Turkey 32.1
18 Egypt 32
19 Lebanon 32
20 United Arab Emirates 31.7
21 Bahamas, The 31.6
22 New Zealand 30.8
23 Iraq 30.4
24 Fiji 30.2
25 Bahrain 29.8
26 Canada 29.4
27 Australia 29
28 Malta 28.9
29 Mexico 28.9
30 South Africa 28.3
31 Argentina 28.3
32 Chile 28
33 Dominica 27.9
34 Uruguay 27.9
35 Syria 27.8
36 United Kingdom 27.8
37 Dominican Republic 27.6
38 Algeria 27.4
39 Oman 27
40 Tunisia 26.9
41 Suriname 26.4
42 Hungary 26.4
43 Lithuania 26.3
44 Morocco 26.1
45 Israel 26.1
46 Czechia 26
47 Iran 25.8
48 Costa Rica 25.7
49 Andorra 25.6
50 Venezuela 25.6
51 Ireland 25.3
52 Vanuatu 25.2
53 Bulgaria 25
54 Greece 24.9
55 Jamaica 24.7
56 Cuba 24.6
57 El Salvador 24.6
58 Belarus 24.5
59 Croatia 24.4
60 Belize 24.1
61 Ukraine 24.1
62 Spain 23.8
63 Nicaragua 23.7
64 Saint Vincent 23.7
65 Latvia 23.6
66 Montenegro 23.3
67 Norway 23.1
68 Barbados 23.1
69 Poland 23.1
70 Russia 23.1
71 Saint Kitts and Nevis 22.9
72 Panama 22.7
73 Haiti 22.7
74 Luxembourg 22.6
75 Solomon Islands 22.5
76 Romania 22.5
77 Macedonia 22.4
78 Colombia 22.3
79 Germany 22.3
80 Finland 22.2
81 Belgium 22.1
82 Brazil 22.1
83 Iceland 21.9
84 Cyprus 21.8
85 Albania 21.7
86 Georgia 21.7
87 France 21.6
88 Serbia 21.5
89 Honduras 21.4
90 Grenada 21.3
91 Papua New Guinea 21.3
92 Estonia 21.2
93 Guatemala 21.2
94 Kazakhstan 21
95 Portugal 20.8
96 Mongolia 20.6
97 Sweden 20.6
98 Slovakia 20.5
99 Netherlands 20.4
100 Paraguay 20.3
101 Guyana 20.2
102 Slovenia 20.2
103 Armenia 20.2
104 Bolivia 20.2
105 Austria 20.1
106 Azerbaijan 19.9
107 Italy 19.9
108 Ecuador 19.9
109 Peru 19.7
110 Saint Lucia 19.7
111 Denmark 19.7
112 Switzerland 19.5
113 Antigua and Barbuda 18.9
114 Botswana 18.9
115 Moldova 18.9
116 Trinidad and Tobago 18.6
117 Turkmenistan 18.6
118 Bosnia and Herzegovina 17.9
119 Namibia 17.2
120 Yemen 17.1
121 Kyrgyzstan 16.6
122 Lesotho 16.6
123 Uzbekistan 16.6
124 Swaziland 16.5
125 Malaysia 15.6
126 Zimbabwe 15.5
127 Gabon 15
128 Tajikistan 14.2
129 Brunei 14.1
130 Seychelles 14
131 Djibouti 13.5
132 Mauritania 12.7
133 Sao Tome + Principe 12.4
134 Cabo Verde 11.8
135 Cameroon 11.4
136 Ghana 10.9
137 Mauritius 10.8
138 Gambia, The 10.3
139 Cote d’Ivoire 10.3
140 Thailand 10
141 Liberia 9.9
142 Benin 9.6
143 Congo, Republic 9.6
144 Guinea-Bissau 9.5
145 Nigeria 8.9
146 Senegal 8.8
147 Sierra Leone 8.7
148 Maldives 8.6
149 Mali 8.6
150 Pakistan 8.6
151 Togo 8.4
152 Tanzania 8.4
153 Somalia 8.3
154 Angola 8.2
155 Zambia 8.1
156 Equatorial Guinea 8
157 Comoros 7.8
158 Guinea 7.7
159 Central African Republic 7.5
160 Mozambique 7.2
161 Kenya 7.1
162 Indonesia 6.9
163 Korea, North 6.8
164 Congo, Dem. Rep. 6.7
165 Sudan 6.6
166 South Sudan 6.6
167 Bhutan 6.4
168 Philippines 6.4
169 China 6.2
170 Singapore 6.1
171 Chad 6.1
172 Malawi 5.8
173 Burma 5.8
174 Rwanda 5.8
175 Burkina Faso 5.6
176 Niger 5.5
177 Afghanistan 5.5
178 Burundi 5.4
179 Madagascar 5.3
180 Laos 5.3
181 Uganda 5.3
182 Sri Lanka 5.2
183 Eritrea 5
184 Korea, South 4.7
185 Ethiopia 4.5
186 Japan 4.3
187 Nepal 4.1
188 Cambodia 3.9
189 India 3.9
190 Timor-Leste 3.8
191 Bangladesh 3.6
192 Vietnam 2.1

Related posts

Leave a comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - £0.00