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THL: 75% of working age Finns overweight

Only a quarter of Finns over 30 have healthy weights.

Scientists have found that abdominal fat may contribute to developing type 2 diabetes. Image: Roni Rekomaa / Lehtikuva

Finnish residents are having a difficult time squeezing into the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global goal for halting the rise in diabetes and obesity by the year 2025.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) on Wednesday said Finnish residents were going to have to make substantial lifestyle changes to get healthy.

The THL has identified working age people as one group whose waists are expanding at an alarming rate. The health watchdog points to the results of the FinHealth 2017 Survey, which found that just a quarter of people over the age of 30 in Finland have a healthy weight.

The WHO classifies individuals as overweight and obese based on body mass index (BMI), which is determined by dividing a person's weight by the square of his or her height. It considers any adult with a BMI of 25 or more to be overweight, while those with 30 or more are obese.

The FinHealth Survey found that nearly three-quarters of men and two-thirds of women over the age of 30 were at least overweight, whereas 26 percent of men and 28 percent of women were obese. This means that every other Finnish adult stores too much abdominal fat, which health experts say is the most dangerous type of excess fat to carry as it envelopes inner organs and may trigger a host of other conditions.

Children in Finland are also too chubby, according to the THL, as almost a quarter of children and adolescents carry too much weight.

More carrots and stick

“We need politicians to make decisions to help solve the problem, such as using tax policy to guide people towards healthier choices and urban planning that promotes physical activity,” said Annamari Lundqvist, a specialist with the THL. “Public health services also need to support people's weight loss.”

The number of people in Finland living with type 2 diabetes, partly triggered by being too heavy and inactive, is growing, mainly due to the ageing population, earlier diabetes detection and longer lifespans of people living with the disease.

The WHO reports that in the past three decades the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has risen dramatically around the world.

"Being obese increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by a factor of eight, compared to someone of normal weight," explained Jaana Lindström of the THL.