New study about prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity amongst the older population in ten European countries

Concerns for overweight and obesity are present throughout the world, and the part of the older population that is affected is considered to be high. Obesity and overweight increase the risk of several diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease, and are also associated with osteoarthritis, asthma and depression.

Since overweigh and obesity are common in many economically developed countries, it is important to monitor the development of these conditions over time in order to assess interventions aimed at preventing and lessening the burden for those who are affected.

A recently published study set out to provide current information about the prevalence and development over time, of overweight and obesity among adults, aged 50 years and older, in ten European countries. To do so, the researchers behind the study analyzed data from the first, second, fourth and fifth waves of the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). Body mass index (BMI) measures were calculated from self-reported height and weight in accordance with the World Health Organization’s guidelines.

The results from the study showed that the general prevalence of overweight has remained at a rather stable level around 60% between the years 2005 and 2013, while the prevalence of obesity has increased from 17.5% to 19.2% during the same time period. The highest prevalence of overweight and obesity were found in Spain, Germany and Austria. Spain was also the only country in which the prevalence of both overweight and obesity decreased between 2005 and 2013, and Italy was the only country in which the prevalence of overweight deceased. The study also showed that the prevalence of overweight increased between the years 2005 and 2013 for respondents in the age group 80 years and older while it decreased for respondents in the age group 60 to 69 years. The prevalence of obesity increased for respondents in the age groups 60 to 69 years and 70 to 79 years. The prevalence of overweight decreased slightly among women during the studied time period while it remained at a stable level among men. The prevalence of obesity on the other hand, increased among men during the time period while it remained unchanged among women.

To sum up, the findings show that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is high among the older population in the ten European countries studied. The researchers behind the study emphasize that overweight and obesity are major public health concerns to which attention needs to be paid. They stress the need for developing medical management approaches and public-health policies, effective healthy lifestyle programs, as well as enhancing health literacy concerning the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.

The text above is based on the publication:

Peralta, M., Ramos, M., Lipert, A., Martins, J. and A. Marques. 2018. Prevalence and trends of overweight and obesity in older adults from 10 European countries from 2005 to 2013. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health 46: 522–529. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1403494818764810.