Tackling the Obesity Epidemic – 61 % are overweight or obese

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Tackling the Obesity Epidemic

An Irish expert on obesity has said that by 2060 it is expected that over 88% of the Irish population will be overweight or obese. (Clinical lead in the child and adolescent obesity service at Children’s Health Ireland in Temple Street Hospital Dr Grace O’Malley). Tackling the Obesity Epidemic has got to be high priority for Governments and individuals

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, she said that there is a “big gap” in terms of the number of people who are overweight in the general population and the number of children from disadvantaged areas who are overweight.

She added that inequality has “a massive impact on life”.

In Ireland, one-quarter of adults are obese. A total of 61 per cent of adults are overweight or obese; 66 per cent of men and 55 per cent of women. Among five to nine year-olds, 34 per cent are overweight or obese.

It comes as a new report says more than half of the world’s population will be overweight or obese by 2035 without significant action.

The World Obesity Federation’s 2023 atlas predicts that 51% of the world, or more than 4 billion people, will be obese or overweight within the next 12 years.

Rates of obesity are rising particularly quickly among children and in lower income countries, the report found. Tackling the Obesity Epidemic from an early age in our education system is a must

Describing the data as a “clear warning”, Louise Baur, president of the World Obesity Federation, said policymakers needed to act now to prevent the situation worsening.

“It is particularly worrying to see obesity rates rising fastest among children and adolescents,” she said in a statement.

“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.”

The report found that childhood obesity could more than double from 2020 levels, to 208 million boys and 175 million girls by 2035.

The cost to society is significant as a result of the health conditions linked to being overweight, the federation said.

It put the cost at more than €3.7 trillion annually by 2035, or 3% of global GDP.

The report uses body mass index (BMI) for its assessments, a number calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.

In line with the World Health Organization’s guidelines, a BMI score over 25 is overweight and over 30 is obese.

Another method that you can use at home is the Waist to Hip Ratio;

Waist-to-hip ratio chart

Health risk Women Men
low 0.80 or lower 0.95 or lower
moderate 0.81-0.85 0.96-1.0
high 0.86 or higher 1.0 or higher


A better indicator is to have your body fat checked (contact us here at Lifegym and we can do this for you)

For people aged 20 to 39, women should aim for 21% to 32% of body fat. Men should have 8% to 19%. For people 40 to 59, women should fall between 23% to 33% and men should fall around 11% to 21%. If you’re aged 60 to 79, women should have 24% to 35% body fat and men should have 13% to 24%.

In 2020, 2.6 billion people fell into these categories of overweight or obese, or 38% of the world’s population.

The report also found that almost all of the countries expected to see the greatest increases in obesity in the coming years are low or middle-income countries in Asia and Africa.


Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Ireland, WHO says

Ireland ranks ninth in Europe for obesity in adults as pandemic compounds issues


Being overweight or obese is the fourth most common risk factor for non-infectious disease.

Overweight and obesity have reached epidemic proportions in Ireland and other European countries, with the problem compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report from the World Health Organisation.

Almost six out of every 10 adults is overweight or obese in the WHO European region, as is one in three school-aged children and one in every 12 children aged under five.

There have been “consistent increases” in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in Europe and no country is on track to reach a target of halting the rise of obesity by 2025, according to the WHO European regional obesity report.

Ireland ranks ninth of 53 European countries for obesity in adults and 11th for overweight and obesity. Irish five- to nine-year-olds rank ninth for overweight and obesity while 10- to 19-year-olds rank tenth.

Being overweight or obese is the fourth most common risk factor for non-infectious disease, after high blood pressure, diet and tobacco, according to the report, and it is the leading risk factor for disability.

The report draws on comprehensive figures from 2016 but the WHO says data since then points to a further increase in obesity rates, particularly since the pandemic. A number of country studies have pointed to increases in overweight and obesity in children during the pandemic.

In Ireland, the report notes more than 20 per cent of women are obese when they become pregnant, with rates higher among women from poorer backgrounds.


During the pandemic, people living with overweight and obesity were disproportionately affected due to greater exposure to obesity risk factors as well as disruptions in treatment services during the pandemic, the WHO says. They were also more likely to suffer severe illness and outcomes from contracting Covid-19.

Meanwhile, lockdowns and other measures designed to curb the virus gave rise to a host of factors, such as stress and economic hardship, that may promote obesity, the report notes.

The WHO says obesity is a complex disease with many underlying causes and therefore needs a multifactorial response. Policy interventions that target environmental and commercial determinants of poor diet in the population are likely to be most effective at reversing the obesity epidemic.

Across Europe, obesity is linked to at least 200,000 new cancer cases annually, with this figure projected to rise in the coming decades. In some countries, obesity will overtake smoking as the main risk factor for preventable cancer in the coming decades.

The report calls for taxes and restrictions on the sale and marketing of unhealthy food products, subsidies to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, and nutrition labelling on food packets.

Greater access to open spaces, and improved walking and cycling facilities, are also recommended.


At the other end of the malnutrition scale, obesity is one of today’s most blatantly visible – yet most neglected – public health problems. Paradoxically coexisting with undernutrition, an escalating global epidemic of overweight and obesity – “globesity” – is taking over many parts of the world. If immediate action is not taken, millions will suffer from an array of serious health disorders.

Obesity is a complex condition, one with serious social and psychological dimensions, that affects virtually all age and socioeconomic groups and threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries. In 1995, there were an estimated 200 million obese adults worldwide and another 18 million under-five children classified as overweight. As of 2000, the number of obese adults has increased to over 300 million. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies; in developing countries, it is estimated that over 115 million people suffer from obesity-related problems.

Generally, although men may have higher rates of overweight, women have higher rates of obesity. For both, obesity poses a major risk for serious diet-related noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer. Its health consequences range from increased risk of premature death to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life.


Obesity is a common, serious, and costly chronic disease of adults and children that continues to increase in the United States. Obesity is putting a strain on American families, affecting overall health, health care costs, productivity, and military readiness.


Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. A healthy diet and regular physical activity help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight starting at an early age and continuing throughout life.


Ireland has the second highest rate of obesity in the EU with more than a quarter of the adult population in the Republic classified as obese, according to figures published by the European Commission.

The EU-wide survey of overweight rates among Europeans reveals that 26% of Irish adults in 2019 were obese. According to the Eurostat report, only Malta with 28% had a higher share of its population rated as obese. The EU average was 16%.

Ireland was ranked 7th with an obesity rate of 18% when a similar survey was previously carried out in 2014.


This country fares better in terms of the proportion of the population considered overweight – a combination of obese and “pre-obese” individiuals.

With 56% of adults in the Republic classified as overweight, it ranks Ireland towards the middle of the 27 EU countries with the highest share of overweight adults found in Croatia and Malta with 64%. In contrast, the lowest share was found in Italy and France with 45% of adults overweight.

Overall, the Eurostat figures which contain the first results of the European Health Interview Survey show that just over half of all adults in the EU are overweight.

While 45% had a normal weight in 2019, 53% were classified as overweight with almost 3% regarded as underweight. The European Commission said weight problems and obesity are increasing at a rapid rate in most EU member states.

A Eurostat spokesperson said obesity is a serious public health problem as it significantly increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart diseases and certain cancers.

The study found that more men than women were overweight in all 27 EU member states.

In Ireland, 61% of males are overweight compared to 49% of females. However, there is little difference in obesity rates with 26% of Irish men and 25% of Irish women considered obese.

With the exception of individuals aged 75 and over, the figures show the older the age group the higher the share of overweight people in the EU.

The same trend is also followed largely in Ireland where the healthiest are those aged 18-24 with 40% overweight rising to 61.5% among those aged 45-64 years.

The highest rate of obesity in Ireland is found among people aged 65-74 with 32% classified as obese.

Eurostat said a pattern was also clear for education level with the share of overweight people falling as the educational level rises.

In Ireland, people living in the Border region – which covers the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo – are most likely to be overweight or obese. The figures show 59% of adults in the Border region are overweight with 30% obese.

At the other end of the scale, people in the West region (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon) – and the South West (Cork and Kerry) have the lowest overweight rates at 53%. The West region has the lowest obese rate at 23%.

The figures on overweight rates in Ireland were collated by the Central Statistics Office from a survey of around 7,600 individuals as part of the Irish Health Survey 2019.


Healthy Ireland Survey 2015 key findings:

Just over three in ten (32%) of the population are considered to be sufficiently active to meet the national guidelines

  • Four in ten men (40%) are sufficiently active to meet the national guidelines compared to just one in four women (24%)
  • Just under one in four (23%) of those who are obese are sufficiently active to meet the national guidelines, compared to almost four in 10 of those with a normal weight or overweight (36%)
  • Irish people spend on average 5.3 hours sitting each weekday
  • Women aged 15-24 spend longer sitting (6.7 hours) than any other group, whilst those engaged in home duties (4.4 hours) spend the least amount of time

The Children’s Sport Participation and Physical Activity Study (2010), reported that only 19% of primary and 12% of post-primary school children met the national physical activity guidelines (Woods et al, 2010).


Healthy Ireland Survey 2016 key findings

  • Two in three people (66%) know that adults should be active for at least five days a week.
  • Most people (81%) know how long some should be active for on these days (that is at least 30 minutes).
  • Significantly more people believe they are sufficiently active compared to the proportion who are sufficiently active to meet the national physical activity guidelines.
  • Almost two in three (63%) of people would like to be more active than they currently are, and the majority (91%) of those who feel they don’t do enough activity would like to do more

The Irish Government and all other Governments need to tackle this issue urgently due to the human and economic cost. Even just looking at this from an economic perspective, it would save the tax payer a fortune in health care costs by solving this issue due to the amount it is costing in hospital and medical care. Then consider the quality of life cost due to these Health issues and the improvement in quality of life by investing resources in fighting this epidemic.

This is down to education around nutrition and exercise and controlling the quality of our food chain. It could also be tackled by the Government paying or subsidising people to join a gym or hire a Personal Trainer. I believe this would save money in the long run as well as improving the health of the population (think also of the reduced cost of workplace absenteeism due to ill health)

To find out more about what we do or if you need  asistance with a weight issue, please contact us at www.lifegym.ie