International Comparisons

Worldwide prevalence of obesity is increasing rapidly, and many low and middle-income countries are now significantly affected as well as richer nations. An estimated 42 million children under the age of five are estimated to be overweight or obese in 2010 worldwide. The United States is widely recognised as having the highest prevalence of childhood obesity and overweight, although the UK and Australia are not far behind. The UK has one of the highest rates among European countries.

Download: International Prevalence Childhood Obesity revised October 2014

International data on the prevalence of overweight and obesity are available from the International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) and are presented in Table 1. These estimates are based on measured height and weight and use the IOTF thresholds to classify individuals as overweight or obese. As is demonstrated in both tables, data are collected over different time periods for different age groups and in some cases, different thresholds have been used.

For more information on the classification of child BMI see our web page on measuring and interpreting BMI in children. And our briefing paper: A simple guide to classifying body mass index in children.

Table 1: Percentage of children overweight (including obese) by selected country based on BMI from measured height and weight using IOTF cut-off

Table 1: Percentage of children overweight (including obese) by selected country based on BMI from measured height and weight using IOTF cut-offs

Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity, IASO.
1. Although 2009/10 data is available from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Health and Nutrition Survey, 2009/10 figures highlighted on the CDC website are available for obese children only and not children that are overweight or obese. See: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db82.htm