The public health impact of obesity

Annu Rev Public Health. 2001;22:355-75. doi: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.22.1.355.


The increase in obesity worldwide will have an important impact on the global incidence of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, cancer, osteoarthritis, work disability, and sleep apnea. Obesity has a more pronounced impact on morbidity than on mortality. Disability due to obesity-related cardiovascular diseases will increase particularly in industrialized countries, as patients survive cardiovascular diseases in these countries more often than in nonindustrialized countries. Disability due to obesity-related type 2 diabetes will increase particularly in industrializing countries, as insulin supply is usually insufficient in these countries. As a result, in these countries, an increase in disabling nephropathy, arteriosclerosis, neuropathy, and retinopathy is expected. Increases in the prevalence of obesity will potentially lead to an increase in the number of years that subjects suffer from obesity-related morbidity and disability. A 1% increase in the prevalence of obesity in such countries as India and China leads to 20 million additional cases of obesity. Prevention programs will stem the obesity epidemic more efficiently than weight-loss programs. However, only a few prevention programs have been developed or implemented, and the success rates reported to date have been low. Obesity prevention programs should be high on the scientific and political agenda in both industrialized and industrializing countries.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Obesity* / complications
  • Obesity* / economics
  • Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Obesity* / mortality
  • Prevalence
  • Risk
  • United States / epidemiology