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Obesity and life expectancy

Obesity undermining rising life expectancy in Europe

In 2016, 23.3 percent of people in Europe were obese, an increase of 2.5 percent in six years (and 58.7 percent were overweight, an increase of 2.8 percent

Although life expectancy in Europe continues to increase, obesity and the growing proportion of people who are overweight risks reversing this trend, according to a report by the World Health Organization. The ‘European Health Report’, covering 53 countries, found that the average life expectancy has increased from 76.7 years in 2010 to 77.8 years in 2015, with women expected to live longer than men - 81.1 years compared to 74.6 years, although the gap has slightly narrowed. However, in 2016, 23.3 percent of people in Europe were obese, an increase of 2.5 percent in six years (from 20.8 percent), and 58.7 percent were overweight, an increase of 2.8 percent (from 55.9 percent).

"Progress is uneven, both within and between countries, between sexes, and across generations," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's director for Europe. "Lifestyle-related risk factors give cause for concern, as they may slow, or even reverse the great gains in life expectancy if left unchecked."

The obesity trend is particularly marked in Turkey, where almost four in 10 women (39.2 percent) have obesity. Two other countries with a particular problem are Malta, where 29.8 percent of the population have obesity and Britain, where the figure is 27.8 percent.

Figure 1: The percentage of the population that is overweight or obese is rising in the WHO European Region (Variations exist between countries and across gender). Source: World Health Organization: The ‘European Health Report’ 2018

The report also notes Europe has some of the highest rates of smoking and alcohol consumption in the world. Some 29 percent of people over the age of 15 smoke, compared with 16.9 percent in the Americas region and 24.8 percent in southeast Asia. The smokers' figure rises to 43.4 percent in Greece, 39.5 percent in Russia and 28.1 percent in France, according to WHO figures from 2013.

However, the proportion of daily smokers across all the countries has dropped, from 28.1 percent in 2002 to 24.4 percent in 2014.

Among European Union nations in 2014, Lithuania had the highest average alcohol consumption at 15.2 litres per person, followed by the Czech Republic (12.7) and Belgium (12.6).

Premature deaths from cancer, diabetes, respiratory and cardio-vascular illnesses are falling, and the region is on course to reach its objective of a 1.5 percent annual reduction up to 2020. Such deaths fell by nine percent between 2010 and 2015, down to 715 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.

This is despite a growing number of cases in the EU, new cancer diagnoses increased by five percent between 2010 and 2014, to 569 cases per 100,000 people.

To access the report, please click here

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