Obesity Rates by Country 2021

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When a person's weight is higher than what is considered healthy for their height, their condition is described as overweight or obese. Bodyweight results from several factors, such as poor nutritional choices, overeating, genetics, culture, and metabolism.

Obesity is linked to many health complications and diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and stroke. Additionally, obesity is the leading preventable cause of preventable death.

Despite the negative effects these conditions can have on one's health, more people are overweight or obese today than ever before in history. In fact, obesity is considered a modern epidemic in most parts of the world.

Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975, with about 13% of adults being obese and about 39% of adults being overweight.

BMI explained

The most commonly used method of measuring obesity is the Body Mass Index, or BMI, which divides a person's weight (in kilograms) by their height (in meters) squared. Medically speaking, BMI scores break down as follows:

  • BMI under 18.5 = underweight
  • BMI 18.5 to <25 = healthy
  • BMI 25 to <30 = overweight
  • BMI 30 to <35 = obese (class 1)
  • BMI 35 to <40 = obese (class 2)
  • BMI 40 or higher = obese (class 3 - morbid)

BMI is not a perfect measure. In particular, it can sometimes give a "false positive" score to athletic individuals, whose high BMIs are due not to excess body fat, but to excess muscle.

For example, extremely fit NFL quarterback Russell Wilson measured 5'11" tall and 215 pounds in 2016, which gave him a BMI of 30.0, or obese. NBA superstar and wellness enthusiast Lebron James had a BMI of 27.5 in 2012, which qualified as overweight—a clear misdiagnosis.

As a result of this inaccuracy, many medical experts are switching to waist-to-height ratio, or WHtR, which compares the circumference of a person's waist to their height. If the waist is more than half the height, (or more than 6/10 the height for those over 50), that person is obese.

WHtR is considered much more accurate than BMI, but is also much newer. Over time, as it is adopted by more countries, WHtR could easily replace BMI as the de facto measure of a person's weight health.

Obesity by country

Obesity rates vary significantly by country as a result of different lifestyles and diets. There is no direct correlation between the obesity rate of a country and its economic status; however, wealthier countries tend to have more resources to implement programs, campaigns, and initiatives to raise awareness and education people about what they are consuming. These are among the healthiest countries globally.

Some regions of the world, such as Southeast Asia, have seen alarming increases in obesity rates within the past five years. Some governments, such as the United States government, have launched campaigns in recent years to promote healthier lifestyles and being active.

Top 10 Most Obese Countries in the World (by average BMI):

  1. Cook Islands - 32.9
  2. Nauru - 32.5
  3. Niue - 32.4
  4. Samoa - 32.2
  5. Tonga - 32.2
  6. Tuvalu - 30.8
  7. Kiribati - 30.1
  8. Saint Lucia - 30.0
  9. Micronesia - 29.7
  10. Egypt - 29.6

Top 10 Most Obese Countries in the World (by percentage of obese adults):

  1. Nauru - 61.0%
  2. Cook Islands - 55.9%
  3. Palau - 55.3%
  4. Marshall Islands - 52.9%
  5. Tuvalu - 51.6%
  6. Niue - 50%
  7. Tonga - 48.2%
  8. Samoa - 47.3%
  9. Kiribati - 46.0%
  10. Micronesia - 45.8%

The Pacific island nations appear prominently, with Saint Lucia and Egypt serving as the only non-Oceania countries on either list. Type 2-diabetes is a large concern among the people of many of these countries. Multiple theories exist as to why this particular region is so susceptible to obesity, including the growth of unhealthy fast food, the rise of frying as a means of food preparation, and a possible genetic predisposition toward higher BMIs.

Moving on to the other end of the spectrum ...

Top 10 Least Obese Countries in the World (by average BMI):

  1. Madagascar - 21.1 (tie)
  2. Eritrea - 21.1 (tie)
  3. Ethiopia - 21.1 (tie)
  4. Timor Leste - 21.3
  5. Burundi - 21.6
  6. Japan - 21.8
  7. Chad - 21.9 (tie)
  8. India - 21.9 (tie)
  9. Bangladesh - 22.0
  10. Burkina Faso - 22.1

Japan's presence here is perhaps unsurprising given that the national diet—which emphasizes seafood, freshness, modest portions, and minimal added sugar or dairy fat—is a very healthy approach (as evidenced by the fact that Japanese life expectancy is among the highest on Earth). However, many of the other countries on this list struggle with famine and poverty—which is the wrong way to achieve a low BMI.

The United States has the 12th highest obesity rate in the world at 36.2%. Obesity rates vary significantly between states](/state-rankings/obesity-rate-by-state), ranging from 23% to 38.10%. This is due to the same dietary, environmental, and cultural factors that cause variations between countries. Diet is primarily to blame, with Americans receiving mixed messages about what they should be eating and how much of it. Faced with mouth-watering advertisements served alongside campaigns promoting daily physical activity and proper nutrition, many Americans opt for fast, cheap, and filling options such as processed packaged food, fast food, and larger portions. This often leads to a diet rich in fat, calories, and sodium (the "butter, sugar, salt" trifecta) and low in vitamins and nutrients.

For a full list of the world's countries and their obesity rates and average BMIs, see the table below.

Here are the 10 countries with the highest obesity rates:

  1. Nauru (61.00%)
  2. Cook Islands (55.90%)
  3. Palau (55.30%)
  4. Marshall Islands (52.90%)
  5. Tuvalu (51.60%)
  6. Niue (50.00%)
  7. Tonga (48.20%)
  8. Samoa (47.30%)
  9. Kiribati (46.00%)
  10. Micronesia (45.80%)

Obesity Rates by Country 2021

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Obesity Rates by Country 2021

Country % of Obese Adults 2021 Population
Nauru61.00%10,876
Cook Islands55.90%17,565
Palau55.30%18,169
Marshall Islands52.90%59,610
Tuvalu51.60%11,931
Niue50.00%1,619
Tonga48.20%106,760
Samoa47.30%200,149
Kiribati46.00%121,392
Micronesia45.80%116,254
Kuwait37.90%4,328,550
United States36.20%332,915,073
Jordan35.50%10,269,021
Saudi Arabia35.40%35,340,683
Qatar35.10%2,930,528
Lebanon33.70%6,769,146
Libya32.50%6,958,532
Turkey32.10%85,042,738
Egypt32.00%104,258,327
United Arab Emirates31.70%9,991,089
Bahamas31.60%396,913
New Zealand30.80%4,860,643
Iraq30.40%41,179,350
Fiji30.20%902,906
Bahrain29.80%1,748,296
Canada29.40%38,067,903
Australia29.00%25,788,215
Malta28.90%442,784
Mexico28.90%130,262,216
Argentina28.30%45,605,826
South Africa28.30%60,041,994
Chile28.00%19,212,361
Dominica27.90%72,167
Uruguay27.90%3,485,151
Syria27.80%18,275,702
United Kingdom27.80%68,207,116
Dominican Republic27.60%10,953,703
Algeria27.40%44,616,624
Oman27.00%5,223,375
Tunisia26.90%11,935,766
Suriname26.40%591,800
Hungary26.40%9,634,164
Lithuania26.30%2,689,862
Israel26.10%8,789,774
Morocco26.10%37,344,795
Czech Republic26.00%10,724,555
Iran25.80%85,028,759
Costa Rica25.70%5,139,052
Andorra25.60%77,355
Venezuela25.60%28,704,954
Ireland25.30%4,982,907
Vanuatu25.20%314,464
Bulgaria25.00%6,896,663
Greece24.90%10,370,744
Jamaica24.70%2,973,463
El Salvador24.60%6,518,499
Cuba24.60%11,317,505
Belarus24.50%9,442,862
Croatia24.40%4,081,651
Saint Vincent And the Grenadines24.10%111,263
Belize24.10%404,914
Ukraine24.10%43,466,819
Spain23.80%46,745,216
Nicaragua23.70%6,702,385
Latvia23.60%1,866,942
Montenegro23.30%628,053
Barbados23.10%287,711
Norway23.10%5,465,630
Poland23.10%37,797,005
Russia23.10%145,912,025
Saint Kitts And Nevis22.90%53,544
Panama22.70%4,381,579
Haiti22.70%11,541,685
Luxembourg22.60%634,814
Solomon Islands22.50%703,996
Romania22.50%19,127,774
Colombia22.30%51,265,844
Germany22.30%83,900,473
Finland22.20%5,548,360
Belgium22.10%11,632,326
Brazil22.10%213,993,437
Iceland21.90%343,353
Cyprus21.80%1,215,584
Albania21.70%2,872,933
Georgia21.70%3,979,765
France21.60%65,426,179
Serbia21.50%8,697,550
Honduras21.40%10,062,991
Grenada21.30%113,021
Papua New Guinea21.30%9,119,010
Estonia21.20%1,325,185
Guatemala21.20%18,249,860
Kazakhstan21.00%18,994,962
Portugal20.80%10,167,925
Mongolia20.60%3,329,289
Sweden20.60%10,160,169
Slovakia20.50%5,460,721
Netherlands20.40%17,173,099
Paraguay20.30%7,219,638
Guyana20.20%790,326
Slovenia20.20%2,078,724
Armenia20.20%2,968,127
Bolivia20.20%11,832,940
Austria20.10%9,043,070
Azerbaijan19.90%10,223,342
Ecuador19.90%17,888,475
Italy19.90%60,367,477
Saint Lucia19.70%184,400
Denmark19.70%5,813,298
Peru19.70%33,359,418
Switzerland19.50%8,715,494
Antigua And Barbuda18.90%98,731
Botswana18.90%2,397,241
Moldova18.90%4,024,019
Trinidad And Tobago18.60%1,403,375
Turkmenistan18.60%6,117,924
Bosnia And Herzegovina17.90%3,263,466
Namibia17.20%2,587,344
Yemen17.10%30,490,640
Lesotho16.60%2,159,079
Kyrgyzstan16.60%6,628,356
Uzbekistan16.60%33,935,763
Eswatini16.50%1,172,362
Malaysia15.60%32,776,194
Zimbabwe15.50%15,092,171
Gabon15.00%2,278,825
Tajikistan14.20%9,749,627
Brunei14.10%441,532
Seychelles14.00%98,908
Djibouti13.50%1,002,187
Mauritania12.70%4,775,119
Sao Tome And Principe12.40%223,368
Cape Verde11.80%561,898
Cameroon11.40%27,224,265
Ghana10.90%31,732,129
Mauritius10.80%1,273,433
Gambia10.30%2,486,945
Ivory Coast10.30%27,053,629
Thailand10.00%69,950,850
Liberia9.90%5,180,203
Republic of the Congo9.60%5,657,013
Benin9.60%12,451,040
Guinea Bissau9.50%2,015,494
Nigeria8.90%211,400,708
Senegal8.80%17,196,301
Sierra Leone8.70%8,141,343
Maldives8.60%543,617
South Sudan8.60%11,381,378
Mali8.60%20,855,735
Sudan8.60%44,909,353
Pakistan8.60%225,199,937
Togo8.40%8,478,250
Tanzania8.40%61,498,437
Somalia8.30%16,359,504
Angola8.20%33,933,610
Zambia8.10%18,920,651
Equatorial Guinea8.00%1,449,896
Comoros7.80%888,451
Guinea7.70%13,497,244
Central African Republic7.50%4,919,981
Mozambique7.20%32,163,047
Kenya7.10%54,985,698
Indonesia6.90%276,361,783
North Korea6.80%25,887,041
DR Congo6.70%92,377,993
Bhutan6.40%779,898
Philippines6.40%111,046,913
China6.20%1,444,216,107
Singapore6.10%5,896,686
Chad6.10%16,914,985
Rwanda5.80%13,276,513
Malawi5.80%19,647,684
Myanmar5.80%54,806,012
Burkina Faso5.60%21,497,096
Niger5.50%25,130,817
Afghanistan5.50%39,835,428
Burundi5.40%12,255,433
Laos5.30%7,379,358
Madagascar5.30%28,427,328
Uganda5.30%47,123,531
Sri Lanka5.20%21,497,310
Eritrea5.00%3,601,467
South Korea4.70%51,305,186
Ethiopia4.50%117,876,227
Japan4.30%126,050,804
Nepal4.10%29,674,920
Cambodia3.90%16,946,438
India3.90%1,393,409,038
Timor Leste3.80%1,343,873
Bangladesh3.60%166,303,498
Vietnam2.10%98,168,833

Obesity Rates by Country 2021