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Ireland has the second highest obesity rate in the EU

Research found that only Malta had a higher share of its population rated as obese.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/Amani A

IRELAND HAS THE second highest rate of obesity in the EU with more than a quarter of the adult population in the Republic classified as obese, according to figures published by the European Commission.

The EU-wide survey of overweight rates among Europeans reveals that 26% of Irish adults in 2019 were obese.

According to the Eurostat report, only Malta with 28% had a higher share of its population rated as obese, while the EU average was 16%.

Ireland was ranked seventh with an obesity rate of 18% when a similar survey was previously carried out in 2014.

Ireland fares better in terms of the proportion of the population considered overweight – a combination of obese and “pre-obese” indivdiuals.

With 56% of adults in the Republic classified as overweight, it ranks Ireland towards the middle of the 27 EU countries with the highest share of overweight adults found in Croatia and Malta with 64%.

In contrast, the lowest share was found in Italy and France with 45% of adults overweight.

People are considered overweight if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) – a measure of a person’s body fat which is based on their weight relative to their height – of 25 or more.

A person’s BMI is calculated by their weight in kilogrammes being divided by the square of their height in metres.

Adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese, while a BMI in the range 18.5-25 is classified as normal.

Overall, the Eurostat figures which contain the first results of the European Health Interview Survey show that just over half of all adults in the EU are overweight.

While 45% had a normal weight in 2019, 53% were classified as overweight with almost 3% regarded as underweight.

The European Commission said weight problems and obesity are increasing at a rapid rate in most EU member states.

A Eurostat spokesperson said obesity is a serious public health problem as it significantly increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart diseases and certain cancers.

“For specific individuals, obesity may be further linked to a wide range of psychological problems,” the spokesperson said.

He added: “For society as a whole, it has substantial direct and indirect costs that put a considerable strain on healthcare and social resources.”

The study found that more men than women were overweight in all 27 EU member states.

In Ireland, 61% of males are overweight compared to 49% of females.

However, there is little difference in obesity rates with 26% of Irish men and 25% of Irish women considered obese.

With the exception of individuals aged 75 and over, the figures show the older the age group the higher the share of overweight people in the EU.

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The same trend is also followed largely in Ireland where the healthiest are those aged 18-24 with 40% overweight rising to 61.5% among those aged 45-64 years.

The highest rate of obesity in Ireland is found among Irish people aged 65-74 with 32% classified as obese.

Eurostat said a pattern was also clear for education level with the share of overweight people falling as the educational level rises.

In Ireland, people living in the Border region – which covers the counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo – are most likely to be overweight or obese.

The figures show 59% of adults in the Border region are overweight with 30% obese.

At the other end of the scale, people in the West region (Galway, Mayo and Roscommon) – and the South West (Cork and Kerry) have the lowest overweight rates at 53%.

The West region has the lowest obese rate at 23%.

The figures on overweight rates in Ireland were collated by the Central Statistics Office from a survey of around 7,600 individuals as part of the Irish Health Survey 2019.

About the author:

Seán McCárthaigh

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