Latest WHO report finds Maltese the most obese in EU

New European report by the World Health Organisation finds “alarming” rates of smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity, which could mean the next generation live shorter lives

Malta has retained the unenviable ranking of hosting the greatest proportion of obese adults aged 18 and over, in the European Union.

A new European report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) found “alarming” rates of smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity, which could mean the next generation live shorter lives.

Malta: High rates of obesity and overweight population (Source: WHO)
Malta: High rates of obesity and overweight population (Source: WHO)

While Europeans are living longer than ever before, increases in life expectancy and declines in premature mortality may “flatten off” if the three big lifestyle risk factors are not dealt with, a senior WHO director said.

The report covers 39 countries including European Union member states as well as former Soviet republics.

Levels of premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases – are decreasing “quickly”, the report said.

But levels of alcohol consumption, tobacco use and obesity remain “alarmingly high” and this “could mean that this progress is not maintained,” it warned.

“Europeans live long lives and healthy lives. We are the longest living region in the world,” said Claudia Stein, a senior WHO director for Europe. “If rates of smoking and alcohol consumption and obesity do not decline we may risk the gains in life expectancy we have seen -- which may mean that the next generation may lead shorter lives than that we do.”

Europeans still smoke and drink more than people anywhere else in the world, according to the WHO. It estimates that on average 11 litres of pure alcohol are drunk per person each year, while 30% of the population uses tobacco.

Meanwhile obesity is increasing, with 59% of Europe’s population either overweight or obese, ranking only slightly behind the Americas which have the highest rates in the world.

Average life expectancy for men and women ranges from 71 in Belarus, Moldova and Russia to 82 for countries like France, Italy and Spain according to figures from 2011.

Some countries have seen a dramatic decline in smoking rates, notably Greece, Russia and Bulgaria, official figures show.

Meanwhile obesity has tripled in many European countries since the 1980s, with 23% of Europeans now obese, according to the report.

“Smoking rates are going down everywhere – we have very few exceptions – but obesity is increasing and one does not offset the other,” Stein said. “What we do not want to see is that we are winning the war against alcohol and smoking but losing the war against obesity.”

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