March 3, 2023 -- More than half the world’s population will be overweight or have obesity by 2035 if current trends continue, with obesity rising at alarming rates among children and adolescents, a new report from the World Obesity Federation says.
By 2035, about 51% of the world’s population, or 4 billion people, could be overweight or have obesity, the World Obesity Atlas 2023 says. That would be a sharp rise from 2020, when about 38% of the world’s population, or 2.6 billion people, was classified as overweight or having obesity.
The percentage of the world population classified as having obesity could rise from 14% in 2020 to 24% in 2035, the report says.
Obesity rates among children and adolescents could double in the next 12 years. The percentage of young males with obesity could rise from 10% in 2020 to 20% in 2035, and the percentage of young females with obesity could rise from 8% to 18%.
The global economic impact of people being overweight or having obesity could reach $4.32 trillion annually by 2035 if preventive steps aren’t taken, according to the report.
“At nearly 3% of global GDP (gross domestic product), this is on a par with the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020,” the report says.
The federation based their projections on the World Health Organization’s definitions of obesity as body mass index, or BMI, over 30 and overweight as a BMI over 25. BMI is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters.
The federation called for governments to make systemic changes to reverse the trend and did not blame individuals for obesity, which it calls “a chronic, relapsing disease.”
“Let's be clear: the economic impact of obesity is not the fault of individuals living with the disease,” says Johanna Ralston, CEO of the Federation. “It is a result of high-level failures to provide the environmental, healthcare, food, and support systems that we all need to live happy, healthy lives.”
While obesity is often considered a problem in high-income nations, 9 of the 10 countries with the greatest projected increases in obesity are low or lower-middle income countries in Asia and Africa, the report says.