Ten fattest countries in Europe

New study shows UK has third-highest level of obesity among European nations

The rise in fast food outlets has been partly blamed for Britain's obesity epidemic
(Image credit: Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Only two European nations have higher levels of obesity than the UK, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

At 27.8%, the percentage of the UK population who are obese is lower only than that of Turkey, at 32.1%, and Malta, with 28.9%.

The European average is 23.3%. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) score of more than 30, while a tally higher than 25 is classified as overweight.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

New research by WHO, an arm of the UN, assessed data on around 900 million people in 53 countries in a vast geographical area stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Hungary and Lithuania rounded out the top five, with 26.4% and 26.3% respectively. Ireland came ninth with 25.3%.

Of the developed nations in the study, Switzerland had the lowest levels of obesity, at 19.5%.

Responding to the WHO report, Tam Fry of British campaign group the National Obesity Forum said: “The Government has to work and quickly if the UK is to avoid shortly becoming the fattest nation on Earth.

“It is frightening that there are millions of children whose current obesity will doom them to die before their parents.”

Medics now widely accept that obese adults die early “not only because of being overweight but because of the co-morbidities they have triggered by their obesity”, Fry added.

The study also found that Britons have the dubious honour of being the “world champions” for drinking, says The Sun.

Brits down 24% more alcohol than the European average. And as report author Dr Claudia Stein notes: “Adult alcohol consumption is a huge ­contributor to obesity.”

Experts told the Daily Mail that the UK’s weight problem may also be a result of the heavy influence of the US, which has an even worse obesity rate of 38%.

European countries such as France and Italy are supposedly less susceptible to American advertising because of the language barrier.

Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “We have long known that among high-income countries, obesity rates are higher in English-speaking ones, including the USA and UK. Within Europe, other countries with high rates include Ireland and Malta.

“This has been a long-standing puzzle and some have asked whether it is because the intensive marketing in the United States in English has a global reach, but especially in countries where everyone speaks English.”

The ten most obese European nations

Turkey - 32.1% Malta - 28.9% United Kingdom - 27.8% Hungary - 26.4% Lithuania - 26.3% Israel - 26.1% Czech Republic - 26.0% Andorra - 25.6% Ireland - 25.3% Bulgaria - 25.0%

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.