The Malta Independent 26 April 2019, Friday

It's official: The Maltese are the fattest in all of the European Union

Jacob Borg Thursday, 24 September 2015, 09:34 Last update: about 5 years ago

Malta has tipped the scales as the fattest population in the European Union according to the 2015 European health report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

When non-EU countries in Europe are factored in, only people from Andorra and Turkey outweigh the Maltese, with the United Kingdom in fourth place.

68.5% of men and 59.6% of women over the age of 18 from the Maltese pastizzi-munching population were found to be overweight by the WHO study.

Looking at the global picture, the prevalence of overweight and obese people is highest in the American region with 61% overweight and 27% obese in both sexes and the European region with 58.6% of the population overweight and 23% obese.

The prevalence of overweight people is lowest in the South-East Asia Region with 22% overweight and 5% obese. In the European, Eastern Mediterranean and Americas regions, over 50% of women are overweight and roughly half of these are also obese, at 25%, 24% and 30% respectively.

While men in Europe are more likely than women to be overweight, women are more likely to be obese.

The WHO flagged obesity as one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century. Its prevalence has tripled in many countries in the European Region since the 1980s.

In addition to causing various physical disabilities and psychological problems, excess weight drastically increases a person’s risk of developing several NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes mellitus.

Several WHO Regional Office for Europe programmes work on tackling the obesity epidemic in the region, including those focusing not only on physical activity and diet but also on socioeconomic determinants, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, cancer and child and adolescent health.

Despite Malta’s weighty problem, the Maltese have a less than average prevalence of premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease.

The mortality rate from such diseases was 260 people per 100,000 of the population in 2012, whereas the regional average stood at 404.3 for that same year.

Maltese males more for likely than females to die in traffic accident, commit suicide

Maltese males are almost three times more likely to die in a traffic accident and over twice as likely to die in an accidental fall.

There were 2.2 female fatalities in traffic accidents per 100,000 of the population in Malta, and 6.5 male fatalities.

The regional average is 4.3 female fatalities and 14.4 male fatalities.

No instances of suicide and intentional self-harm were recorded in females during the 2009-2012 study period, while 9.2 per 100,000 of the population were recorded in males.

The regional average in this respect is 4.8 for females and 21.3 in males.

The study showed that mortality rates are consistently higher for men than for women across specific external causes of death.

Of people dying in motor vehicle traffic accidents in the region, 75% are men and more than half are aged between 15–44 years.

Although road traffic injuries cause relatively fewer deaths among older people, this group is especially vulnerable, as people’s ability to cope with difficult traffic situations declines gradually with age and they become more fragile physically, the WHO noted.

Suicide is ranked as the second leading cause of death after road traffic accidents both globally and in Europe among 15 to 29 year-olds.

Older people are also at high risk for suicide, and the overall suicide rate in Europe is higher than in other regions.

Mortality rates from suicide and intentional self-harm for all ages differ widely between countries, with the highest rate in the region among men an alarming 51.4 per 100 000 people, the WHO said.

Alcohol consumption among people aged 15 years and over was lower than the European average, with 7.6 litres of pure alcohol consumed by the Maltese, with the regional average at 9.8 litres, although the last available data from Malta was in 2010.

Europe has the highest rates of alcohol and tobacco use in the world and WHO estimates show rises in the prevalence of overweight and obesity between 2010 and 2014 in almost all countries.

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