The World Is Gaining Weight at a Shocking Rate

Video screen capture. Max/YouTube

An interesting map reveals how global obesity rates have skyrocketed between 1975 and 2014.

The obesity epidemic is precisely that – an epidemic of astounding proportions that threatens global health on a large scale. Since 1975, obesity rates have increased in every single country on the planet, whether rich like the United States and Saudi Arabia, or poor like Somalia and Angola. Even countries that suffer from malnutrition are witnessing a rise in obesity. Today, the average adult is three times more likely to be obese than they were in 1975.

A study published last year in The Lancet compiled data on global obesity, using results from 1,698 studies that examined 19.2 million individuals in 200 countries. It traced the rise in obesity from 1975 to 2014, and concluded that “the probability of meeting the global obesity target is virtually zero.” (This refers to target no. 7, set by the World Health Organization: “Halt the rise in obesity.”) The authors write in their interpretation:

“If these [post-2000] trends continue, by 2025, global obesity prevalence will reach 18% in men and surpass 21% in women; severe obesity will surpass 6% in men and 9% in women.”

This is worrisome when you think of the health complications that accompany obesity. An epidemic of these proportions indicates poor nutrition on a vast level, whether through lack of knowledge about how to eat well or no access to healthy food. It also leads to many serious health complications, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, and musculoskeletal disorders. This is costly to governments and individuals, not to mention unpleasant.

From The Guardian’s report on the study:

“At the low end, North Korea’s obesity rates are up... from 1.6% in 1975 to 2.8% today. Japan is also near the bottom with a 2% increase since 1975 (from 1.1% to 3.3%). The largest changes occurred in smaller Pacific island countries. Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu all saw their obesity rates increase by more than 20%, a doubling of what they were in 1975.
“Perhaps the country that stands out most of all is China. In 1975, only 0.5% of Chinese adults were obese. Today, China’s obesity rate is about 8%, a 16-fold increase in the most populous country in the world.”

It can be difficult to comprehend the numbers, which is why an entrepreneur named Max Galka created a map that changes color according to its adult obesity rate, illustrating “how the world became obese.”

If you go to this version of the map, you can hover over each country to see how its obesity percentages have grown between 1975 and 2014.

The map is a powerful and distressing graphic that provides a valuable frame of reference. It becomes easier to understand just how serious the problem is and why teaching healthy lifestyle habits to the next generation is so crucial.