Over three-quarters of men in Malta are overweight, the highest rate in the 52 countries making up the World Health Organisation’s European region.

Published on Tuesday, the WHO European Regional Obesity Report 2022 analyses different aspects of excessive weight in Europe and also explores medical conditions linked to being overweight or obese.

Israel’s men come in second place with just over 70% of the male population being overweight.

At just under 60%, the rate for women in Malta is significantly lower than that of their men although it is still the second-highest when compared to the rest of the region.

Turkey has the highest rate at just under 70%, the WHO report shows. The overweight rate also includes persons who are considered obese.

Long-running problem

Malta has for years topped overweight and obesity lists, with predictions by the World Obesity Federation published in March suggesting the problem is set to worsen and over a third of the adult population will be obese by 2030.

Around a quarter of the Maltese adult population is already considered obese, the WHO report confirms, a figure that had already been known from previous reports.

Meanwhile, Malta’s children also continued to be among the heaviest in the European region, with the problem being worse among boys than girls.

According to the WHO’s latest report, Malta’s 11- and 15-year-old boys are the most overweight in the region.

In fact, over 45% of 11-year-olds are overweight, the highest rate registered.

Similarly, Malta’s 15-year-old boys are also the heaviest, with around 40% of them being overweight.

A similar report published in 2018 had shown figures for teenage boys had been lower, confirming fears the problem is getting worse. 

At the time, 38%of 11-year-old boys were overweight, while the figure for 15-year-old boys stood at 34%.

In line with trends for adults, figures for girls are lower than boys, although they are still the highest when compared to the rest of the region.

The report showed that 35% of 13-year-old girls were overweight. At 33%, the figure is only marginally lower for girls aged 11. For 15-year-old girls, the overweight rate stood at 30%.

'An epidemic'

Speaking at the launch of the report, WHO regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, called on all European countries to step up efforts to address the problem.

He noted that none of the countries were on track to reach WHO targets by 2025.

“This is an epidemic that is placing a heavy toll on individuals, families, health systems and economies.

“We must also strengthen capacity among healthcare workers,” Kluge told reporters.

Public health chief Charmaine Gauci recently said Malta’s efforts to tackle the problem will centre on addressing childhood obesity.

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