Health, overweight and obesity

Obesity: the other pandemic that has brought the coronavirus

Lockdowns and curfews have made people spend more time at home, skyrocketing the levels of overweight and obesity among the population.

The coronavirus has brought another pandemic to Turkey: obesity. According to the data presented in a report before a commission of the Turkish parliament, the excess of weight among the Turkish population has increased notably during the COVID-19 pandemic, mainly due to people spending more time at home because of the lockdowns and curfews.

The report, presented after several months of work, indicates that one in three people in Turkey suffers from obesity. The WHO defines obesity as overweight in which the body mass index (BMI) – that is, the result of dividing the weight by the height of an individual squared – is equal to or greater than 30 kg / m².

While in 2008 only 15% of the population of Turkey suffered from overweight, the obesity rate has not stopped growing in recent years, reaching 19.6% in 2016 and 21.1% in 2019. Precisely a report presented in 2019 by the WHO warned that 3 out of 4 people in Turkey are overweight and do not practise any type of physical activity, and that almost 8 million Turks are obese, of which almost 2.5 million are morbidly obese.

More obese people in the west, especially in the Black Sea

However, the report presented to the Turkish Parliament indicates that obesity levels vary by region; thus, it is in the western provinces of the country – the most populated – where there are the highest rates of obesity among the population, while in eastern Anatolia the incidence of this health problem is lower.

The highest proportion of the population with obesity problems occurs in the provinces of the Turkish Black Sea region, where 37.5% of the population is obese, followed by the Central Anatolia region with 36.9%. In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city with about 16 million inhabitants, 30.7% of its inhabitants suffer from obesity.

By gender, 39.1% of women and 24.5% of men in Turkey suffer from obesity, according to the report. “Obesity is higher among women due to lack of physical activity, psychological problems, lower income and lower educational level,” says the study, which concludes by stating that the increase in obesity as a result of measures against the coronavirus can also be considered a “pandemic”.