The development of obesity is influenced by individual and societal factors. As the Finnish standard of living has increased, people’s lifestyles have changed. Technology has become ubiquitous in our lives, which has resulted in an “obesogenic” lifestyle, i.e. a lifestyle that promotes obesity. 

A passive and sedentary lifestyle, limited physical activity, energy-rich food and large servings and package sizes increase the risk of weight gain. The development of obesity is also affected by numerous psychological, social, cultural and economic factors.

A person is overweight or obese when their body mass index (BMI) is 25 kg/m2 or more. A person is obese when their body mass index is 30 kg/m2 or more.

Obesity can also be determined by measuring waist circumference. For men, the limit of waist circumference is 100 cm or more; for women, the limit is 90 cm or more. Obesity of children and adolescents can be measured by using a weight-to-length ratio or ISO-BMI that corresponds to the body mass index used for adults.

Obesity and overweight in Finland

17% of Finnish girls aged 2–6 and 27% of boys of the same age are at overweight or obese. 4% of girls and 8% of boys in this age group are obese.

Of young adults under 30, at least 35% of women and almost half of men are overweight. 19% of women and 17% of men in the same age group are obese.

Of adults over 30, 63% of women and 72% of men are at least overweight. 28% of women and 26% of men are obese. Almost one in two men and women have abdominal obesity.

Health effects of obesity

Obesity increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, musculoskeletal diseases, dementia, depression, sleep apnoea, gout, gallbladder and pancreatic diseases and many types of cancer. Obesity may also cause menstrual disorders, infertility and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Childhood obesity is associated with metabolic changes, such as increased blood pressure and disorders of fat and glucose metabolism, which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Obesity in childhood increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in adulthood, but the risk decreases significantly if the person attains normal weight by adulthood.