The third European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) was conducted in 2019, following the implementation of the European Commission regulation 2018/255, which concerns the collection of harmonised high quality data on health across Europe. European Union regulations are legal acts that are immediately and simultaneously enforced across all member states, thus enabling the collection of precious information delivered through EHIS that serve as essential health and social policy indicators.
Based on Body Mass Index, or BMI, which is a global standard for measuring an individual’s health by accounting for their body size through a height and weight calculation, the findings are cause for alarm.
Just over half of Europeans adults are overweight (53%), comprising 36% pre-obese and 17% obese, while just under 3% are underweight- leaving 45% of the European adult population recording a normal BMI. Percentages of overweight people vary following age group, levels of education, and countries.
Concerning age, older groups feature a higher share of overweight people (and obese): 25% of 18-24 year olds are overweight (and 6% obese) compared to 66% of those aged 65-74 (22% obese). This clear pattern is only true for 18 to 74 year olds, as people aged 75 and older record lower numbers.
Malta and Croatia record the highest share of overweight adults at 65%, while the lowest shares are found in Italy (46%) and France (47%).
Education levels also appear to be inversely correlated with that of overweight and obese people. 59% of people with low education levels are overweight (20% are obese) in comparison to 44% of those with high education (11% of which are obese).
Obesity remains a serious and growing public health problem that considerably increases the risk of chronic and non-communicable diseases such as type-II diabetes, coronary heart disease, certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. The fourth EHIS is foreseen to take place in 2025, until when EuropeActive will continue its quest to get more people, more active, more often. In the meantime, these findings bring further legitimacy to the European Commission’s HealthyLifestyles4All initiative, which will be launched during the 2021 European Week of Sport.