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DATA STORY : Obesity and overweight

  • Published
    27th May, 2022

Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. Body mass index (BMI) is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

For adults, WHO defines overweight and obesity as follows:

  • overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25; and
  • Obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

BMI provides the most useful population-level measure of overweight and obesity as it is the same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. However, it should be considered a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same degree of fatness in different individuals. For children, age needs to be considered when defining overweight and obesity.

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 sugars; 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.

India has recorded a four per cent increase in obesity in both men and women in the last five years, according to the fifth and latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5). The percentage of women who are overweight or obese is 24 per cent in NFHS-5, up from 20.6 per cent in NFHS-4 (2015-16). The proportion is greater in urban areas at 33.2 percent, in comparison to 19.7 per cent in rural areas. 

The disease prevalence also went up in men to 22.9 per cent (NFHS-5) from 18.9 percent (NFHS-4). The proportion of obese men was also higher in urban areas at 29.8 per cent compared to 19.3 per cent in rural areas. Gujarat and Maharashtra emerged as the best-performing states

This data story aims to highlight the NFHS-5 findings about overweight and obesity.


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