Obesity has become such a public health issue that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has called it an epidemic.1 Due to the increase in obesity and weight problems, the WHO has defined a series of measures to help promote healthy eating and facilitate the adoption of a physically active lifestyle.2

In March 2016, a study was published in The Lancet, which shows that the global adult population is becoming more obese. Indeed, in 2014, obesity, diabetes risk factor, heart disease and certain cancers, reached 13% of the global adult population and could reach 20% by 2025, while 39% of the population was overweight.3,4

Currently, severe weight problems occur in early childhood, leading to significant concerns about health problems and diseases associated with excess weight.


The prevalence of obesity has increased significantly in Canada.5,6,7,8 Obesity and overweight are steadily rising in Quebec and the rest of Canada, as recognized by a report from the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.9

In Quebec


  • Measured data for 2015 showed that 59% of adults are in excess of weight.10
    • 36 % overweight
    • 23 % obesity
  • In 2014-2015, 53.7% of adults (15 years and older) reported being in excess of weight.11
    • 18.8% obesity
  • According to the measured data for 2015, 30% of young Quebecers (5 to 17 years old) are in excess of weight.12
    • 20% overweight
    • 10% obesity
  • In 2013-2014, 19.4% of high school students (12 to 17 years old) report being in excess of weight.13
    • 5.9% obesity
    • 13.5% overweight


  • It was measured that 56,3% of adults (18 years and older) are in excess of weight.14
    • 21.8% obesity
    • 34.5% overweight
  • It was measured that 22,6% children and adolescents (2 to 17 years) are in excess of weight.15
    • 7.1% obesity
    • 15.5% overweight

Sources: MSSS (2012). Évolution de la population touchée par l’obésité, selon l’âge et selon le sexe.
Institut de la statistique du Québec (2016). L’Enquête québécoise sur la santé de la population, 2014-2015: pour en savoir plus sur la santé des Québécois.

In Canada

  • In 2014, 54% of Canadian adults (18 years and older) reported being in excess of weight, of which 20.2% are obese.16
    • Measured data for 2015 show that 62% of adult Canadians have excess weight, of which 27% are obese and 35% overweight,17 whereas the measured data for 2012-2013, considering waist size and BMI, 41% of Canadian adults have increased health risks.18
  • In 2015, among Canadian youth aged 5 to 17 years old, measures show that 31% were considered to be in excess of weight: 19% were overweight and 12% were obese.19
  • In 2009-2011, it was measured that 31.5% of Canadian youth (5 to 17 years) have excess weight, of which 11.7% obesity.20
  • In 2013, it has been measured that 6.7% of toddlers (0 to 2 years old) are overweight and 18% are at risk of being in excess of weight.21
  • According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the obesity rate of the Canadian adult population rose sharply to a measured rate of 25.4% in 2010.22

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada.23

According to data from 2015 or more recent data, globally, Canada ranks 9th of adult populations with excess weight.24

In terms of excess weight among children, according to data from 2010 or more recent data, Canada ranks 11th, compared to other OECD countries.25

The data reported in 2009-2010 showed that among the country’s 11, 13 and 15 year-olds, Canada ranks 3rd in terms of overweight problems.26


  • In a report published in January 2015, the WHO stated that obesity has doubled since 1980.27
  • According to the WHO, obesity has reached the proportions of a global epidemic, to the extent that at least 2.8 million people die each year because of they are overweight or obese.28


By 2025, halting the upsurge in diabetes and obesity is one of the global targets of the WHO.29 The main cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance between calories consumed versus calories spent30, although several individual and environmental factors can influence body weight, hence the complexity of solving the problem.31

Eating habits and physical activity also have significant impact on weight gain, as well as the environment in which we experience greatly influences our eating habits and level of physical activity, given the difficulty of making healthy choices if no healthy food or space to move is available.32,33,34

The WHO identifies five “probable and convincing” factors associated with obesity:35

However the WHO estimates that an overall and rapid growth of obesity cannot solely be attributed to attributed to individual responsibilities.36 In fact, there are many factors influencing the weight problem, whether at the international (media, marketing, etc.), national (public policies), community (income, urban designs, etc.) or individual (genetic, occupation, etc.) levels.37

Changing diet and exercise habits will require efforts from both the private and public partners, whether from the WHO Member States, the civil society and non-governmental organizations, or the private sector.38

Health impacts

Over the past few years, numerous studies have indicated that overweight problems, particularly obesity, are directly related to the increased prevalence of chronic diseases. In fact, obesity is associated with a number of diseases or morbidities, and recent clinical literature has established links between it and various chronic diseases:39,40,41

  • type 2 diabetes;
  • several types of cancer;
  • cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure and coronary heart diseases);
  • psychiatric disorders, although some psychotropic drugs are likely to cause weight gain;
  • respiratory problems (asthma, sleep apnea, obesity-hypoventilation syndrome);42
  • musculoskeletal disorders (chronic low back pain, certain forms of arthritis (osteoarthritis, gout), etc.);
  • the metabolic syndrome;
  • chronic venous insufficiency and venous thromboembolism;43
  • affections of the gall bladder;
  • hepatic steatosis (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease);
  • chronic kidney disease.

In addition, obesity can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.44

As for childhood obesity, it increases the risk of obesity later in life and contributes to the early onset of a number of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis and hypertension.45

Therefore, obesity has serious consequences for the health and well-being of children: the incidence of type 2 diabetes rapidly increased in adolescents and obesity is present in almost all cases. In addition, obese children are more likely to be obese adults. As a result, obesity can increase the risk of health problems for the rest of their lives.46

Economic consequences

Obesity is an expensive epidemic.

In 2011, the Quebec National Institute of Public Health has estimated that the economic impact of obesity and being overweight at nearly 3 billion dollars. These costs include those related to hospitalization and medical consultations as well as those related to the use of medication and disability.47,48

  • Between 2010 and 2030, an estimated forecast of a 72% increase in direct costs of major chronic diseases, resulting in an increase of 1.8 billion dollars to 3.1 billion dollars.49
  • Between 2010 and 2030, indirect costs (premature mortality, disability, etc.) are likely to increase by 61%, that is to say from 5.8 billion dollars to 9.4 billion dollars.50

In Canada, in 2008, the annual economic burden of obesity was estimated at 4.6 billion dollars, compared to 3.9 billion dollars in 2000. One study estimates costs at 7,1 billion dollars,51,52 while other researchers estimate it to be 30 billion dollars a year due to increased demand for medical care and loss of productivity resulting from higher mortality or disability.53

Prevention: the only viable solution to weight problems

The financial state of Quebec’s public funding cannot ignore the cost impact obesity has on its healthcare system. It then becomes strategic and wise to promote supportive environments for healthy lifestyles and consumption, reduce the pressure on the health system and ensure future generations a healthy future, in order to reduce the pressure on the health system and ensure a healthy future for future generations. A sufficient investment in prevention helps avoid diseases and human suffering associated with them.

It is the Government’s responsibility to implement public policies in order to promote physically active lifestyles and healthy eating habits.