Obesity getting bigger in India: One in every four has a weight problem

Obesity getting bigger in India: One in every four has a weight problem

The percentage of obese men between the ages of 15 and 49 increased to 23 per cent from 19 per cent.

The prevalence of obesity among Indians increased in 2019-21 compared to 2015-16, as per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) data. Nearly one in every four persons is overweight compared to one in every five earlier.

Obesity is calculated on the basis of a Body Mass Index (BMI). Anyone with a BMI of more than 30 is considered obese; a person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is deemed overweight.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), the worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016. Obesity, once considered a problem in wealthy nations, is shifting in low and middle-income countries.

According to the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, 5.02 million people died prematurely in 2019 due to obesity, nearly six times the number that died from HIV/AIDS that year. Worldwide, more than eight per cent of all deaths in 2019 happened due to obesity. It was only four per cent in 1990.

The percentage of obese men between the ages of 15 and 49 increased to 23 per cent from 19 per cent. Among women, the number jumped from 21 per cent to 24 per cent.

Per the survey's findings, there was a direct correlation between age and obesity — and it was the same for both men and women. The ratio of thin men and women decreased with age. However, it was the opposite for obese persons.

In terms of absolute numbers, 41 per cent of men aged 15-19 were thin. The ratio was reduced to eight per cent for men aged 40-49. Similarly, only seven per cent of young men aged 15-19 were obese, whereas 32 per cent of men aged 40-49 were overweight. The numbers were similar for women.

The proportion of thin men was higher in rural areas (18 per cent) than in urban areas (13 per cent). In comparison, 30 per cent of men were overweight in urban areas compared to only 19 per cent in rural areas. Similarly, the proportion of thin women was higher in rural areas than in urban regions and vice-versa.

Interestingly, the proportion of weight was directly proportional to household wealth. As per the survey findings, as household wealth increased, there was a decline in the ratio of the thin population. For example, 28 per cent of thin women were in the lowest wealth quintile, while the number declined to ten per cent in the highest wealth quintile.

Similarly, a steady increase in the proportion of obese women was observed as the wealth increased, from ten per cent in the lowest wealth quintile to 39 per cent in the highest wealth quintile. The numbers were similar for men as well.

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Looking at state-wise data, the proportion of thin men was highest in Bihar (22 per cent), followed by Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat (21 per cent each). The highest ratio of obese men was found in Delhi (38 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (37 per cent), followed by Kerala (36 per cent), among big states.

The survey found that the highest proportion of thin women was from Jharkhand and Bihar (26 per cent each), followed by Gujarat and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu (25 per cent each). The highest proportion of overweight women was from Puducherry (46 per cent), Chandigarh (44 per cent), New Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Punjab (41 per cent each), and Kerala and Andaman and Nicobar Islands (38 per cent each).

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