While most of us are aware of the problem of excessive weight, it still hits the headlines. Since the situation doesn’t seem to be improving, I thought it would be good to have a brief look at the situation presented to us in the latest study conducted through the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) in 2016. EHIS’s first wave started between 2006 and 2009 and encompassed 17 EU countries. Following its first success, EHIS became obligatory to be run in all EU countries according to the Regulation 141/2013.
The struggle with excessive weight in Malta has over the years reached high heights, with our islands being amongst the top countries in obesity lists and record-high figures. In October 2016 Malta was confirmed as the most obese nation in the European Union, passing Latvia by a bit less than 5 percent. More than one in four adults in Malta are considered obese. EHIS also established that one adult in six in the EU is considered obese.
The share of obese adults clearly varies between age groups and according to the education level. People aged between 65 and 74 have the higher share of obesity in the EU making up a total of 22.1%, 5.7% of which are aged between 18 and 24. What is interesting in this regard is obesity in proportion to education levels - the obesity figures in the EU tend to go down the more the education on the subject rises.
While many talk about the issue, it seems that not enough is being done to tackle the problem adequately. The problem has a number of roots that are causing it. An unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle are the main cause of obesity in Malta, but there are more factors that contribute to the problem and these include genetics and individual preferences. The environment around us doesn’t help much either due to the fact that there is constant and easy access to unhealthy snacks and drinks. In nearly all EU states, obesity increases with age, and yes, whether you believe it or not, Malta is one of them.
The only way to change this situation around for the better is through educating the Maltese and European public at large to make small changes in their everyday life in order to improve their diet and overall health. Trying to avoid processed foods in particular and other foods and drinks which are high in fats, sugars and salts is a great way to start. Instead one should drink a lot of water and eat frequent and healthy meals (fruits and green leaf vegetables) in order to help boost the metabolism. That means that the exaggerated portion sizes that the Maltese population knows and loves need to go. Last but not least, don’t forget to do some form of exercise.