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Obesity in Hong Kong reaches 50% of the population

According to a survey of more than 12,000 people, half of the people living in the bustling metropolis of Hong Kong are overweight or obese. Figures relate to those over the age of 15 years old, which is representative of some 6.5 million people. 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 dealing with your weight.

Individual Health Insurance Plans

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.

What is obesity and 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 with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle and the energy-rich fast food we consume. Consuming more calories than you burn often leads to weight gain.

Are you obese?

So, how do you know if you’re obese? The BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator is often used to estimate the total body fat in your body. To calculate your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height (in meters squared). Alternatively, use an online BMI calculator to do it for you.

A reading of 25 (or 23 for Asians) or higher is considered as overweight. On the other hand, 30 (or 27 for Asians) or higher signals obesity.

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.

What’s the story with obesity in Hong Kong?

The aforementioned citywide health survey was conducted by the government and found a number of really alarming trends:

bar graph showing the negative health trends impacting obesity in hong kong

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.

chart showing population health & obesity estimates between 2007 and 2017, highlighting the changes in obesity in hong kong

Another alarming revelation has come in the form of drinking habits in Hong Kong. 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 normal drinkers with an average tolerance for imbibing. 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.

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 at a “heavy weight”, while 52.7% of women of the same age fell in the same category. Younger people were less likely to be holding on to excess weight, however overweight and obese men jumped more than 20% between the ages of 15 to 24 and 25 to 34. Males continued to outweigh their female counterparts throughout their lives, until the ages of 65 to 84, where women would inch ahead in terms of obesity in Hong Kong.

What’s causing our weight problems?

Like many places around the world struggling to encourage people to maintain a healthy weight, there are a number of 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 being “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.

Focusing on the education of young juniors at school, a study found that parents were the prime source of obesity-related information for many youths and teens. When it came to how frequently they would eat junk food, most would eat unhealthy options between 2-3 and 4-5 times a week.

According to studies in the United States, children who are obese are more likely to be overweight or obese adults when they grow up. This accounted for 80% of overweight American youths that then carried that weight forward to their adult years, worsened by tripling child obesity in the US since 1970. In Hong Kong, the situation is not yet as bad as those across the Pacific Ocean, however current trends indicate that the SAR could be headed towards the same situation.

close up of a man pulling a measuring tape around his chubby belly, representing obesity in hong kong

What can we do to control obesity in Hong Kong?

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.

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 burning them off, however, you should try to be active for all the added benefits of physical activity adds to a healthy diet.

Where can I go to support healthy weight loss in Hong Kong?

One of the most important things you can do to really 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 a healthier you. 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 me 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 your 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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