Health & Wellness

Obesity in Canada Has Doubled Since the ’70s

We’re getting bigger—and sicker—and it’s going to affect the country financially


By Katrina Caruso


The world’s population is growing—and not only in number. More and more people every year are overweight or obese. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people worldwide who are obese has tripled since 1975, and a 2017 report by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) estimated that 2.7 billion people (a third of the Earth’s population) will be overweight or obese by the year 2025.

In Canada, only 14% of us were obese in 1978, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada; by 2014, that number had doubled to 28%. Statistics Canada figures show that more than 9.5 million Canadians were overweight in 2015, and another 7.3-plus million were obese—a total of 60.7% of the Canadian adult population were overweight or obese. That total had reached 64% by 2017.

The result is that more and more of us are living with conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Saskatchewan has the highest percentage of obesity, with 45.9% of the population classified as obese; meanwhile, British Columbia’s population has the lowest obesity rate, at 21.4%.

The WOF report notes that 34% of the total Canadian population will be obese by 2025. By that time, Canada will be spending an estimated $33.7 billion a year to treat obesity-related illnesses, including diabetes and heart and liver disease, as well as some cancers.

The report suggests that we could reduce the rate of obesity by increasing spending now on preventing it in the first place, as well as treating those already obese. For now, however, according to the report, of the roughly 80,000 doctors in Canada, only 40 have formal training in dealing with obesity and weight management.

Photo: iStock/Rostislav_Sedlacek.