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One billion people globally are suffering from obesity, says  WHO

More than one billion people worldwide are living with obesity and the disease has quadrupled among children and adolescents between five and 19 years of age, according to the World Health Organization.

HQ Team

March 1, 2024: More than one billion people worldwide are living with obesity and the disease has quadrupled among children and adolescents between five and 19 years of age, according to the World Health Organization.

About 43% of adults were overweight in 2022, according to a WHO study conducted in collaboration with the Lancet. Obesity can cause noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and some cancers.

Even though the rates of undernutrition have dropped during the 1990-2022 period, it is still a public health challenge in many places, particularly in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, according to the study.

During the period, rates of underweight fell among children, adolescents and adults, leading to obesity becoming the most common form of malnutrition in many countries. The proportion of girls, boys and adults considered underweight fell by a fifth, a third and a half, respectively.

Countries with the highest combined rates of underweight and obesity in 2022 were island nations in the Pacific and the Caribbean and those in the Middle East and North Africa.


Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition, wasting, stunting, underweight, inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight and obesity. Undernutrition is responsible for half of the deaths of children under five.

Being underweight is becoming less common globally, but in many countries it remains a significant issue, leaving increasing numbers of countries facing what is known as the “double burden” of malnutrition.

“In the past, we have been thinking of obesity as a problem of the rich. Obesity is a problem of the world,” said Francesco Branca, head of nutrition at the WHO.

Among adults, the obesity rate more than doubled in women and nearly tripled in men. In total, 159 million children and adolescents and 879 million adults were living with obesity in 2022, according to the Lancet statement.

“It is very concerning that the epidemic of obesity that was evident among adults in much of the world in 1990 is now mirrored in school-aged children and adolescents,” said senior author Professor Majid Ezzati, of Imperial College London.

220 million people’s data analysed

 “At the same time, hundreds of millions are still affected by undernutrition, particularly in some of the poorest parts of the world. To successfully tackle both forms of malnutrition it is vital we significantly improve the availability and affordability of healthy, nutritious foods.”  

The study was conducted by the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

Researchers analysed weight and height measurements from over 220 million people aged five years or older, representing more than 190 countries. 

More than 1,500 researchers contributed to the study, which looked at body mass index to understand how obesity and underweight have changed worldwide from 1990 to 2022. 

“This new study highlights the importance of preventing and managing obesity from early life to adulthood, through diet, physical activity, and adequate care, as needed,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. 

“Importantly, it requires the cooperation of the private sector, which must be accountable for the health impacts of their products,” he said.

Climate change, pandemic

Dr Guha Pradeepa, study co-author from the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation, said that major global issues risk worsening both forms of malnutrition.

“The impact of issues such as climate change, disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine risk worsening both rates of obesity and underweight, by increasing poverty and the cost of nutrient-rich foods.

“The knock-on effects of this are insufficient food in some countries and households and shifts to less healthy foods in others. To create a healthier world, we need comprehensive policies to address these challenges.” 

In the US, the obesity rate increased from 11.6% in 1990 to 19.4% in 2022 for girls and 11.5% to 21.7% in 2022 for boys. 

In India, the obesity rate increased from 0.1% in 1990 to 3.1% in 2022 for girls and 0.1% to 3.9% in 2022 for boys. 

The prevalence of obesity in India ranked 27th lowest (174th highest) in the world for both girls and boys in 2022. 

Countries with the highest prevalence of underweight in 2022 were India and Sri Lanka for girls and Niger and India for boys, where more than 15% of the child and adolescent population were living with obesity.



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