Body Mass Index – World Comparisons
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is obtained by dividing the weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters (kg/m2) and is commonly used to define overweight and obese.
In 2014, this index had the highest value in the Americas, and the South-East Asia region had the lowest value (see information below).
A similar conclusion can be made when analyzing the data for the female population. However, for the male population, the Europe region had the highest BMI, closely followed by the Western Pacific and Americas areas.
Except for the Europe region, in all areas the BMI for the male population is higher than the BMI for the female population.
Note: The information is presented below with the WHO region definition
Obesity analysis of developed countries
For the purpose of this analysis, the information was analyzed for a group of developed countries (European Union Countries, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand), plus China and Russia. (3)
Overweight prevalence in 2014
The prevalence of overweight population is the percentage of the total population that has a BMI of 25kg/m2 or higher (including obese).
The main results in 2014, for this group of countries, are:
- A total of 16 of the 39 countries analyzed had over 60% of the population overweight;
- The United States had the highest overweight prevalence, (read more..) either of the total population or for the female and male populations, followed by Canada, Malta, Australia and New Zealand;
- The overweight prevalence was higher in the male population than in the female population in all countries, with Luxembourg having the biggest difference (48.3% for females compared with 67.8% for males) and China had the lowest (32.3% for females and 36.2% for males);
- Japan and China had the lowest prevalence of overweight for total, female and male populations, presenting considerable differences when compared with the other countries.
Obesity prevalence in 2014
The prevalence of obesity in the population is the percentage of the total population that has a BMI of 30kg/m2 or higher. For 2014, the main results in 2014 are:
- Most countries had an obesity percentage of at least 20%;
- Similar to the overweight prevalence results, the United States was the country with the highest obesity prevalence, either for total population or for the female and male populations, followed by New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and Canada;
- The obesity prevalence was higher in the female population than in the male population in 15 of the 39 countries, with Russia having the biggest difference (27.4% for females and 20.3% for males). Another group of countries, had a higher obesity prevalence in the male population compared with the female population. Luxembourg had the greatest difference (19.7% for females and 26.6% for males);
- Japan and China again revealed the lowest prevalence of obesity for total, female and male populations, with considerable differences compared with other countries.
Obesity prevalence evolution – 2010/2014
From 2010 to 2014, all developed countries registered an increase in the obesity prevalence.
Within this group of countries, New Zealand had the highest growth in total (from 26.5% in 2010 to 29.2% in 2014), female (from 28.1% to 30.8%) and male (from 24.8% to 27.7%) populations.
In other countries, like the United States, the increase was also significant when compared with New Zealand. In the U.S., there was a 2.5 percentage point increase in the obesity prevalence in the total population (from 31.2% in 2010 to 33.7% in 2014).
Japan, not only had the lowest rates, but also registered the smallest increase from 2010 to 2014 to the total, female and male populations.
Methodological note from the WHO statistics: WHO uses standard methods in order to maximize cross-country comparability. Therefore, the results presented are not necessarily the countries’ official statistics. WHO uses regression modelling techniques to produce estimates for standard risk factor definition, standard set of age groups for reporting, standard reporting year, and representatives of the population. Adjusting theses estimates and the WHO Standard Population, it was possible to obtain age-standardized estimates (as shown above). These estimates correct the differences between age/sex structure between countries. (4)