Background: Obesity is a serious public health problem, the prevalence of which is increasing dramatically all over the world. The aim of this study was to examine trends in body mass index (BMI) and the proportion of overweight and obese individuals among 19-year-old Polish males reporting for mandatory military fitness exams from 1965 to 2010.
Methods: Height, weight and BMI [weight (kg)/height (m(2))] in five 10% nationwide random samples of 19-year-old conscripts examined in 1965, 1986, 1995, 2001 and 2010 were analysed.
Results: From 1965 to 2010, mean BMI in 19-year-old Polish males increased from 21.7 to 22.9. The rate of change was not uniform, with a rapid increase in mean BMI from 1995 to 2010. Beginning in 1965, the proportion of men with a BMI over 25 has been steadily increasing from one decade to the next, and was four times higher in 2010 than it was in 1965. The rate of increase per decade was twice as high from 2001 to 2010 than it was from 1995 to 2001. In 2010, only 70.8% of young men were of ideal weight.
Conclusion: Increase in obesity can be attributed to the social and economic changes brought about by the transformation of the country from a communist to a free-market economy in 1989. The challenges of the obesity epidemic for public health services and its impact on morbidity and life expectancy are also discussed.
© The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.