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HK Obesity Rate Increased by 1.8 Times in Children and Adolescents in 2023

A 2022 study conducted by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) revealed that Hong Kong residents were the worst performing in the categories of Physical Activity and Obesity, while scoring relatively better grades in Active Transportation, School, and Community and Environment.

Furthermore, a study also reported that the HK obesity rate of children has increased by 1.8 times, which are the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in recent years.

We all know that keeping a healthy weight is important, but these findings indicate that we’re still far too apathetic about the risks of obesity in Hong Kong. In this Pacific Prime Hong Kong article, we’ll find out how obesity is affecting Hong Kong, and where you can find support for managing your weight.

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What is Obesity?

Obesity is one of the greatest health challenges of the 21st century. Yet, more than 70% of Hong Kongers are unaware that it has been considered as a disease for the past two decades.

It can also lead to increased risk of various health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer.

How Can You Find Out If You Are Obese?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defined obesity as a disease in which your accumulated excess body fat negatively affects your health. Nowadays, many Hong Kongers are particularly at risk after the pandemic and with the new lifestyles.

Keep in mind that BMI may not be an accurate assessment of obesity for certain groups of people. Several examples include athletes (who tend to have large muscle mass), elderly people, pregnant women, and children.

Obesity in Hong Kong Pre-pandemic

The aforementioned citywide health survey was conducted by the government and found several alarming trends:

Survey about health in Hongkong showing the numbers of people who are at risk of developing cardiovascular problems
Survey about health in Hongkong showing the numbers of people who are at risk of developing cardiovascular problems

As a result of increasingly unhealthy lifestyles, 10.6% of people between the ages of 30 to 74 are at risk of developing cardiovascular problems.

These can include coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, and heart failure. Only 10 years ago, 7,000 people were surveyed about their health and the overall findings were much lower.

a graph shows the numbers of people who have overweight and cholesterol problems
A graph shows the numbers of people who have overweight and cholesterol problems

A decade ago, 61.6% of people identified themselves as seldom drinkers, and had a low tolerance when drinking. In the most recent survey, 61.4% now identify themselves as drinkers with an average tolerance for alcohol consumption.

While most Hong Kongers continue to take up drinking at the age of 20, the percentage of people admitting to binge drinking in the past year has risen from 2.2% to 9.6% in just ten years. Also, between 2004 and 2021, Hong Kong’s per capita alcohol consumption ranged from 2.37 to 2.87 liters.

By and large, men are more likely to be overweight and obese than women are. In fact, 73.2% of men aged 45 to 54 were “heavyweight”, while 52.7% of women of the same age fell in the same category.
However, the percentage of overweight and obese men increased by more than 20% between the ages of 15 and 24, and between 25 and 34. Males remained more overweight than their female counterparts throughout their lives, until the ages of 65 to 84 when women surpassed men in terms of obesity in Hong Kong.

Obesity in Hong Kong Post-pandemic

What is the obesity rate in HK after the pandemic? Between November 2020 and January 2022, the Department of Health (DH) interviewed over 16,000 non-hospitalized individuals aged 15 or above from more than 7,400 households.

It revealed that approximately 50% of adults in Hong Kong were classified as either overweight or obese, which is believed to be linked to the COVID-19 pandemic that restricted physical activities and led to changes in eating habits.

For children, during the 2021/22 school year, the number of overweight (including obese) primary and secondary school students had increased by approximately 3% and 2%, compared to the 2018/19 school year. The prevalence of overweight or obese children aged 9-13 had increased from 7% to 24%.

What’s Causing Our Weight Problems?

Like many places around the world struggling to encourage people to maintain a healthy weight, there are several factors impacting waistlines locally. Obesity in Hong Kong is often caused or exacerbated by:

  • A lack of physical exercise.
  • Cultural belief in fatter children being healthier and cuter.
  • Social misunderstandings around obesity are “genetic” and beyond individual control.
  • School or work pressure to perform sedentary tasks rather than pursue physical activities.
  • An increasing reliance on junk food rather than healthy options for nutrition.
  • Using unhealthy food to deal with trauma.

Certainly, these remain the primary causes of the rise of HK obesity rate and weight problems in present times. However, there have been additional factors that have contributed to the numbers seen in studies about obesity rates in Hong Kong in 2023, particularly during and after the pandemic, including:

  • Changes in eating habits due to stress and altered lifestyles.
  • Children are spending less time playing outdoor sports and eating more snacks.
  • People tend to choose high-sugar drinks compared to the drinks they consumed before the pandemic.
  • The increase in ordering takeaway food has also contributed to the problems.

7 Ways to Get Healthier (and Lose Some Weight)

The Hong Kong government website for Student Health has some fantastic tips to encourage healthier eating and living:

Cook Smarter

Use less sugar, oil, and sauces in your food. Steam and boil rather than frying, and remove fatty meat and skin when cooking. You can also choose to use healthy vegetable oils and avoid animal fats such as butter and lard.

Choose Healthier

Always opt for less meat than vegetables in your meals, choose low-calorie and nutrient-rich foods for snacks, and avoid consuming food/drinks with high sugar content, such as soda drinks.

Eat Appropriately

Never skip breakfast, avoid eating just before bedtime, and try to space your meals out evenly. Eat when you’re hungry and only enough to satisfy yourself; don’t overindulge!

Get Educated

Understand and follow the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid, and know where to turn to for professional medical and nutritional advice.

Burn Those Calories!
As always, losing unnecessary weight is all about ensuring you burn more calories than you’re putting in. It’s said to be easier to cut calories than burn them off, however, you should try to be active for all the added benefits of physical activity added to a healthy diet.

Choose Fresh Food

To improve your diet and achieve better health, consider choosing fresh foods whenever possible. Processed foods, whether canned or frozen, tend to be higher in fat, oil, and sugar.

Sleep Matters!

The pandemic has caused changes in people’s sleep patterns, which have disrupted their eating habits and led to weight gain. Developing a regular sleep schedule with sufficient sleep can help alleviate this issue.

Get Support for Healthy Weight Loss in Hong Kong

One of the most important things you can do to get off on the right foot is to find out exactly where your health, fitness, and diet are currently. Knowing where you’re starting from can make it easier for you to get your health where it needs to be.

As such, seeing your doctor can always be a good start to becoming healthier. Beyond seeing your GP, here are a few other places you might want to consider for support in tackling obesity in Hong Kong:

Again, these can all be great ways to support your weight loss plan. However, each person is different; you shouldn’t simply rely on the internet to get appropriate advice for healthier eating or exercising.

Always see your doctor to ensure you’ll find the safest and healthiest way to avoid becoming another statistic for obesity in Hong Kong.

What Happens If My Weight Causes Health Problems?

While countries like the US have seen their disease or health authorities recently label obesity as a disease and/or a chronic illness, this is not yet the case for most of Asia.

Chronic care in Hong Kong is common for things like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, respiratory illnesses, or diabetes, but you can expect obesity treatment (e.g. weight reduction surgeries like gastric bypasses) to often be counted as elective procedures.

That said, overweight and obese people can still find the best insurance plan in Hong Kong for their condition. For individual plans, many insurers will require you to submit your weight and height in your application.

Your Body Mass Index (BMI) will be used to determine whether or not you might be required to pay a loading on your premium to account for your increased risk or, in extreme cases, whether coverage may be outright denied.

Group health insurance plans or employee-provided insurance, usually don’t require your BMI. However, you may want to ensure you know what your plan does cover in case you are seeking out treatment for weight reduction or obesity-related illnesses that aren’t covered or have low benefits.

Travel abroad often? In that case, securing a global health insurance plan ensures that you’ll have the best medical attention no matter where you are in the world.

Whatever your insurance needs, Pacific Prime Hong Kong has you covered. To find out more about what our selection of international and comprehensive plans can do for you in Hong Kong, Asia, and the world, contact our team of consultants and advisors today!

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Hong Kong
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung