data workplace wellness

Beyond Data, Awareness Needed for Obesity Health Consequences

Yesterday we highlighted the World Health Organization’s “Obesity and Overweight” data fact sheet, which offers useful information for well-run workplace wellness programs and individuals alike.

Some of the key facts:

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
  • In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
  • 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
  • Obesity is preventable.

But beyond pure data, the WHO also offers important insights and guidance that can help influence program design or engagement within workplace wellness programs.

What causes obesity and overweight?

The WHO states: “The fundamental cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and calories expended. Globally, there has been:”

  • “an increased intake of energy-dense foods that are high in fat; and
  • an increase in physical inactivity due to the increasingly sedentary nature of many forms of work, changing modes of transportation, and increasing urbanization.”

“Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education.”

The WHO offers more help in outlining common health consequences of overweight and obesity. 

It notes: “Raised BMI is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as:

  • cardiovascular diseases (mainly heart disease and stroke), which were the leading cause of death in 2012;
  • diabetes;
  • musculoskeletal disorders (especially osteoarthritis – a highly disabling degenerative disease of the joints);
  • some cancers (including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon).

Further: “The risk for these noncommunicable diseases increases, with increases in BMI.”


Tomorrow: WHO finding on how overweight and obesity can be reduced.