How many children in Europe are obese today?

  • A. 10%
  • B. 25%
  • C. 40%

Correct answer

According to the World Health Organization, the rate of childhood obesity in Europe is 8.6%. Answers B and C are just terribly wrong. At 14%, the Americas is the region with the highest proportion of children with obesity today. The idea that 25% or 40% of all children in Europe (or in any region!) could be obese is just crazy — at least for now.

Why do we say “for now”? Because since 1975, obesity rates have been rising. If things don’t change, those crazy figures we mentioned above could happen in the future.

Data source

The evidence for the correct answer comes from the World Health Organization:

In Europe, childhood obesity is less common than people think

Our respondents in Germany, France, and the United Kingdom didn’t seem to have a clue about children with obesity, with only one in six respondents choosing the right answer. They weren’t extremely negative either, though. Just over half (51%) of our respondents picked the middle option, which is at least close to the right answer for the share of children in Europe who are overweight (not obese).

Why do people pick the wrong answer?

Because they think this is a HUGE problem!

There are probably two reasons why people choose the wrong answers for this question: First, the “obesity epidemic” is well-covered in the news, leading people to think it’s a bigger problem than it really is. Second, the lack of public understanding of the difference between the terms obese and overweight. The conditions are often mixed up — even by professionals. To be clear: not all overweight people are obese.

With all this said, obesity really is one of the largest health problems in the world today, and it is slowly growing… it’s just not quite as bad as our survey respondents thought. And there’s still time to change the trend!