Obesity as a socio-economic problem

Where we live has a direct impact on how we live, and we learn our behaviours from those around us, which may also explain why certain communities have particularly low rates of obesity and other lifestyle diseases. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are two global organisations collecting and analysing statistical data on population health.

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The OECD member countries with the highest rates of obesity (above 25%) are the UK, Finland, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Turkey, Hungary, New Zealand, Mexico and Chile, with the USA coming out on top with a staggering obesity rate of 40%. Countries in the middle group (10-25%) are all European. Those with the lowest rates of obesity (under 10%) are Italy, South Korea and Japan (OECD, 2017).

According to the latest OECD figures, obesity is a growing problem for developed countries that have unprecedented access to energy-dense foods.

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In developed countries such as Australia and the Pacific Islands (NHMRC, 2013b), Great Britain and Europe (Science Daily, 2018), and the USA (Hales et al., 2018), those who struggle to make ends meet are more likely to become obese. This is especially true for those living in the outer suburbs, or in rural or remote areas (NHMRC, 2013b). Differences in certain cultural and ethnic groups make them even more likely to become obese than others (Hales et al., 2018).

These ‘Social Determinants of Health’ make obesity a complex issue, with many factors beyond the control of the average person. But there is hope. Every one of us has the power to control at least one factor in our lives, and probably more.

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