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Prevalence, trends and associated socio-economic factors of obesity in South Asia

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-18, 21:25 authored by Jayawardena, R, Nuala ByrneNuala Byrne, Soares, MJ, Katulanda, P, Andrew HillsAndrew Hills

AIM: Worldwide obesity levels have increased unprecedentedly over the past couple of decades. Although the prevalence, trends and associated socio-economic factors of the condition have been extensively reported in Western populations, less is known regarding South Asian populations.

METHODS: A review of articles using Medline with combinations of the MeSH terms: 'Obesity', 'Overweight' and 'Abdominal Obesity' limiting to epidemiology and South Asian countries.

RESULTS: Despite methodological heterogeneity and variation according to country, area of residence and gender , the most recent nationally representative and large regional data demonstrates that without any doubt there is a epidemic of obesity, overweight and abdominal obesity in South Asian countries. Prevalence estimates of overweight and obesity (based on Asian cut-offs: overweight ≥ 23 kg/m², obesity ≥ 25 kg/m²) ranged from 3.5% in rural Bangladesh to over 65% in the Maldives. Abdominal obesity was more prevalent than general obesity in both sexes in this ethnic group. Countries with the lowest prevalence had the highest upward trend of obesity. Socio-economic factors associated with greater obesity in the region included female gender, middle age, urban residence, higher educational and economic status.

CONCLUSION: South Asia is significantly affected by the obesity epidemic. Collaborative public health interventions to reverse these trends need to be mindful of many socio-economic constraints in order to provide long-term solutions.


Publication title

Obesity facts










School of Health Sciences



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Copyright 2013 S. Karger GmbH, Freiburg Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0)

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health) not elsewhere classified

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