26th Oct 2016

Over half of Europeans are overweight, report says

Over half of adults living in the European Union countries are overweight or obese according to a report published ON Tuesday (7 December) by the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The rate of obesity has more than doubled over the past 20 years in most EU member states, the "Health at a Glance" report shows.

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  • Artists may find obesity inspiring, but not health experts (Photo: EUobserver)

The UK comes out worst, followed by Ireland and Malta, where a quarter of the population is obese. At the other end, less than 10 percent of Romanians, Swiss and Italians have weight problems.

Child obesity is also a growing problem in Europe: Currently, one in seven children on the continent are overweight or obese - and the trend is going up.

This is also linked to the fact that kids are hooked on computers and TV sets and take less and less time for physical activities. The report shows that only one in five children in the EU exercise regularly, with physical activity declining mostly between the ages of 11 and 15.

The study warns that children who are obese or overweight are more likely to suffer from poor health later in life, with a greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, arthritis, asthma and even premature death.

On the other hand, improved life standards and medical services have contributed to a rise in the overall life expectancy in the Europe from 72 years in 1980 to 78 years in 2007.

The report also finds fewer deaths from heart disease, which remains however the biggest cause of death, accounting for 40% of all deaths in Europe in 2008.

With the impact of the economic crisis and the austerity measures not included in the survey, the data on health spending in member states is already obsolete. Still, the report noted even at 2008 spending levels that "the shortage of doctors is a cause for concern in many European countries."

The number of doctors per capita was lowest in EU candidate country Turkey - with less than two doctors per 1000 inhabitants, followed by Poland and Romania, with little over two. Greece had the highest number of doctors per capita in 2008, with six per 1000 population, followed by Austria and Italy with four.

Also, with an increasing trend of specialisation among practitioners, the report warns that "the slow or negative growth in the number ofgeneralists per capita raises concerns about access to primary care for certain population groups."

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