In 2013, 42 million infants and young children were overweight or obese, worldwide1 and 70 million young children will be overweight or obese by 2025 if current trends continue.1 Without intervention, overweight infants and young children will likely continue to be overweight during childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Obesity in childhood is associated with a wide range of serious health complications and an increased risk of premature onset of illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
Canada, like many nations, is in the midst of an epidemic of overweight and obesity. There has been a dramatic increase in unhealthy weights in Canada. Childhood overweight and obesity has been rising steadily in Canada in recent decades. Between 1978/79 and 2004, the combined prevalence of overweight and obesity among those aged two to 17 years increased from 15 per cent to 26 per cent.2 Increases were highest among youth, aged 12 to 17 years, with overweight and obesity more than doubling for this age group, from 14 per cent to 29 per cent.2
Currently, 59% of adult Canadians are either overweight or obese.3 Cities in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia were significantly higher in overweight/obesity population than the national average for adults.4
Most adolescents do not outgrow this problem and in fact, many continue to gain excess weight.5 If current trends continue, by 2040, up to 70% of adults aged 40 years will be either overweight or obese.6
Adults who have unhealthy weights are at increased risk of heart disease,7 cancer,8 strokes and type 2 diabetes.9 In 2005, the total cost of obesity to Canadians was $4.3 billion; $1.8 billion in indirect healthcare costs, and $2.5 billion in indirect costs.10 Affected adults may die up to 3 to 7 years earlier than counterparts with a healthy weight.11
The resulting toll in dollar’s cost and lives lost is a call for action. Obesity is difficult to reverse and public health measures must include effective prevention beginning in childhood as well as treatment.
Last updated April, 2015.
- World Health Organization. Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, 2015.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. Curbing Childhood Obesity; A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights, 2012.
- Tjepkema M. Measured Obesity: Adult obesity in Canada: Measured height and weight. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-620-MVE2005001
- Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey, 2009, 2010.
- Singh AS, Mulder C, Twisk JWR. (2008) Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: a systematic review of the literature. Obesity Reviews 9. 474 – 488.
- Le Petit C, Berthelot JM. Obesity: A Growing Issue. Statistics Canada catalogue no 82-618-MWE2005003
- Zalesin K, Franklin BA, Miller WM, Petersen ED. Impact of Obesity on Cardiovascular Disease Endocrinology Metabolism Clinics North America – 01-SEP-2008;37(3): 663 – 84
- Danaei G, et al. (2005) Causes of Cancer in the world: comparative risk assessment of nine behavioural and environmental risk factors. Lancet,: 366, 1786 – 1793
- Smith SC. Multiple Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Mellitus. (2007) American Journal of Medicine., Vol 120 (3A)
- Janssen I, Diener A. (2005) Economic Burden of Obesity in Canada
- Peeters A, et al. (2003) Obesity in adulthood and its consequences for life expectancy: A life table analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 138, 24 – 32