Alarming rate of obesity growing concern for Jordan’s health sector

As of 2016, 1.9 billion adults are considered overweight worldwide, and another 650 million were deemed obese. (Photo: Unsplash)
As of 2016, 1.9 billion adults are considered overweight worldwide, and another 650 million were deemed obese. (Photo: Unsplash)
AMMAN — Obesity is a serious health concern and is associated with numerous complications. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a person is considered obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more, whereas a person is considered overweight at a BMI of 25-29.9. اضافة اعلان

As of 2016, 1.9 billion adults are considered overweight worldwide, and another 650 million were deemed obese.

Jordan is no exception to these alarmingly high rates of obesity.

According to the WHO, obesity prevalence is alarmingly high in Jordan among children and adults, putting the population at a high risk of developing Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs),

Ayoub Al-Jawaldeh, technical expert in the WHO regional office for the Eastern Mediterranean, had previously told Jordan News that obesity in Jordan is “considered to be among the highest among the countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region, making it a risk factor for NCDs.”

In Jordan, prevalence of obesity stands at 40 percent, while the prevalence of overweight is 70 percent, according to the WHO and Jawaldeh.

In a meta-review comparing BMI internationally between 1975 and 2016, Jordan was ranked 23rd for adult obese males (29.17 percent) and 16th for adult obese females (44.60 percent).

Health concerns relating to obesity
Obesity is a growing concern in the health sector. It has been determined to be the cause of many serious and potentially life-threatening conditions such as:

Type 2 diabetes

Coronary heart disease

Certain cancers (e.g., breast cancer and bowel cancer)


Additionally, obesity can cause a slew of other related problems such as:


Increased sweating


Difficulty performing physical activities

Feeling tired

Joint and back pain

Depression due to low confidence and self-esteem
Obesity has also been linked to an increase in the likelihood of other conditions. When comparing an obese individual with a BMI of 40 or more to a normal individual (BMI = 18.5 – 24.9), obese individuals are:

7.37 times more at risk for diabetes

6.38 times more at risk for hypertension (high blood pressure)

88 percent more at risk for hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol and triglycerides)

2.72 times more at risk for asthma

4.41 time more at risk for arthritis

Obesity affecting women more than men in Jordan
In Jordan, obesity affects women disproportionally more than men. Internationally speaking, women are still affected more, with 15 percent of adult women being obese whereas as males have an 11 percent prevalence.

Despite that, there is an unprecedented disparity between the two genders in Jordan of 16.2 percent. One study in 2014, titled “Obesity of women in Jordan - Prevalence and associated factors: making a case for a comprehensive obesity policy,” set out to analyze the burden of obesity in the female population of Jordan on a national scale, and examine factors associated with it.

The study found a positive association between married women and obesity. From data collected in 2002, 2007 and 2009, married women were consistently found to be more obese than women who never married.

The paper goes on to suggest a couple of possible explanations for the differences in obesity between married and unmarried women, which include:

Traditional role of food preparation for married women

Emotional state of being married increases appetite

Decreased physical activity associated with time constraints of parental duties

Jordan’s Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reports in their 2017-18 key findings that 56 percent of women between the ages of 15-49 are married and tend to have, on average, their first child at the age of 25.

Obesity and the Jordanian healthcare system
Internationally, obesity has a huge economic impact on the healthcare system, due to its increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCD). NCD are diseases that cannot be transferred directly to another person; people are born with them or acquire them later in life.

In 2005, it was reported that NCDs were responsible for over half of all deaths in Jordan, the majority being cancer and heart conditions. Current estimates based on Jordan’s population growth project 1-3 million people being affected by diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol by 2050, resulting in increased strain on the health care system.

Throughout the last decade, 9 percent of Jordan’s GDP has gone to total health expenditures, owing to the government’s increased spending on the health sector. Critiques argue that the growth rate of health expenditure in regard to Jordan’s GDP is unsustainable in the future owing to only modest economic growth rates with an increasingly ageing population.

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