Regional differences in rates of overweight inhabitants

There is a remarkable pattern in the regional distribution of overweight people in the Netherlands. In the early 1980s, more than 35 percent of adults (20 years and older) in the provinces Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe and Overijssel were overweight. The southern provinces Limburg, North Brabant and Zeeland passed this 35 percent mark later on in the 1980s, and the remaining provinces in the first half of the 1990s.

Drenthe consistently in the lead

Drenthe had the highest percentages of overweight inhabitants during the whole period: 41 percent in 1981–1983, rising to 51 percent in 2002–2003.

Utrecht had the fewest fat people in 1981–1983, and maintained this favourable position for the whole period: in 2002–2003 Utrecht still had the lowest percentage of overweight adults, at 41procent.

The differences between the provinces in rates of overweight inhabitants, even that between Utrecht and Drenthe, can only partly be explained by different ages composition of the provincial populations.

More than 45 percent of Dutch adults are too fat

At the end of the 1990s the situation in the Netherlands was considerably unhealthier than at the beginning of the 1980s. In all twelve provinces more than 40 percent of the adult population weigh too much. Since 2002, more than 45 percent of the population are overweight in nearly all provinces. Utrecht and North Holland are the only exceptions.

Ageing contributes to overweight

Being overweight is related to age. In the adult population aged up to seventy, the older people are, the more likely they are to be overweight. The Dutch population continued to age between 1981 and 2003, and this ageing effect pushed up the percentage of overweight people by 2 points, in all provinces.

Ferdy Otten, Frans Frenken (CBS), Wanda Bemelmans (RIVM)