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Obesity and related illnesses a serious problem in the Netherlands30 January 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
Dutch national statistics office CBS has published figures which show that in 2012, just over four out of ten people in the Netherlands were either moderately or severely overweight.
Thirty years ago, this number was less than three in ten. Now, the proportion of the population of the Netherlands (excluding very young children) that is moderately overweight is 30 per cent, while 10 per cent are obese.
The proportion is lower in children and young people: around 15 per cent of those aged between two and 25 years are overweight and three per cent are obese.
Moderately overweight is considered as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30, while obese is having a BMI of 30 or above.
BMI is calculated by dividing the square of a person's height by their body mass, although better calcuations involve using body fat percentages, as people with a lot of muscle mass may be falsely classified as overweight.
Obesity in the Netherlands
The number of overweight people has been steadily rising for the past three decades, but the proportion of obese to moderately overweight has been increasing too.
Obesity rates have doubled in the past 30 years, from five per cent to 10 per cent of the population, while the proportion of overweight people has risen by almost 40 per cent.
Obesity and diseases
There are serious problems that come with obesity, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis and heart disease.
More than 13 per cent of people aged 12 and over with obesity in the Netherlands have type 2 diabetes. That is nine times as many as in people who are not overweight (1,5 per cent).
Obese people are also about four times more likely to have high blood pressure and three times more likely to have common joint problems and heart disease.
People who are moderately overweight also have higher rates of these diseases than the rest of the population, around three times the rate of type 2 diabetes and more than twice the rate of high blood pressure, but these differences are smaller.
Obesity and mental health
The rates of anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses are roughly the same between people who are moderately overweight and those of a healthy weight.
People with obesity, however, have significantly higher rates of these mental illnesses.
A study in 2013 by CBS also found that weight was linked to level of education, with more than 60 per cent of people whose highest level of education was vocational high school (vmbo-niveau) overweight, compared to 33 per cent of people with a university education.