Body weight

Obesity and Overweight: What Are the Economic Impacts in Québec?

Analyses of the economic burdens related to various health issues affecting a population makes it possible to compare their relative significance. By documenting the costs linked to the use of health services and to productivity losses among individuals with health issues, these studies are invaluable to the decision makers who determine health priorities. 

Studies on the economic burden of obesity and overweight carried out in Canada and other industrialized countries, clearly demonstrate that the increased incidence of overweight generates additional costs in terms of the use of health services, and impacts the economic health of these societies. 

This TOPO provides an estimate of the economic consequences of obesity and overweight in Québec. The Institut national de santé publique du Québec (INSPQ) has studied the evidence on this issue from an economic perspective. In it, we describe the behaviour of…

The Economic Consequences Associated With Obesity and Overweight in Québec: Costs Tied to Hospitalization and Medical Consultations

Over the past 40 years, industrialized countries have undergone social and economic changes that have increased the risk of developing chronic diseases within the population. The increasingly sedentary nature of work, a decrease in physical activity due to reliance on automobiles and to urban sprawl and more sedentary recreational activities have all contributed to an ongoing reduction in levels of physical activity.

To this can be added the major changes the food system has undergone during the same period. The food system is now characterized by the industrialization of agricultural production, increased caloric availability and lower prices for food with low nutritional value. In addition, food distribution and marketing practices have made food continually available in our environments. In this type of environment, which does little to promote healthy eating and the adoption of a physically active lifestyle, chronic diseases and obesity increased.

Body Weight and the Health of the Adult Population in Québec – Summary

This study provides, for the first time, a profile of the health burden linked to different categories of body weight (underweight, overweight and obesity) among adults 18 years of age or over for the province of Québec. Based on different indicators of physical and mental health drawn from survey data, it describes the proportion and number of men and women who report suffering from specific health problems according to their weight category. The study also identifies the degree to which certain health problems are associated with body weight, as well as highlighting particular associations where Québec stands out from the rest of Canada.

From the standpoint of public health planning, the findings presented can be used to identify initiatives that would most effectively improve the wellbeing and the quality of life of the Québec population.


  • In Québec, excess weight is synonymous with a greater number of health problems…

The economic impact of obesity and overweight

Obesity and overweight are risk factors linked to the appearance of a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. However, obesity also has an economic impact. Indeed, studies that have quantified the economic burden of obesity in Canada and abroad observe that the problem engenders significant costs for society. Such costs are not confined to those stemming from broader recourse to health services. Costs related to absenteeism, disability and other productivity losses that obesity engenders are at least as high as costs related to health care. Accordingly, studies of the economic burden reveal that the rise in overweight and obesity is not a source of concern solely for interveners working in the health field. Indeed, health problems linked to obesity affect several sectors of the economy and the resulting economic burden. Investing in the prevention of obesity thus offers benefits not only for the health of the population but also for Québec's econ…

The sociocultural environment and lifestyle habits of adolescents: A better understanding for action

In early adolescence, young people adopt lifestyle habits that could play a determining role in their future health. At this early age, they begin to develop their independence, while continuing to be influenced by their sociocultural environment. Sociocultural factors have an impact on eating habits and physical activity, and this is even more true in adolescence when youth are in the process of learning and experimenting.

The results of the Ados 12-14 study (see box, page 3) show that the promotion of healthy lifestyle habits among young Québec adolescents should take into account the influence of family and peers, as well as youth's perceptions of contradictory messages concerning lifestyle habits.

Lifestyle Habits and Health Indicators of Québec Anglophones

As part of an initiative to evaluate the health status of Québec anglophones, their lifestyle habits and certain health indicators were examined by area of residence and compared with those of francophones. The data was taken from the 2003, 2007−2008 and 2009−2010 cycles of the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), with particular emphasis on the most recent data.

The results show few statistically significant differences in lifestyle habits and health indicators between anglophones and francophones, regardless of survey cycle or area of residence. Among the few significant differences we did find, anglophones report eating less often fruits and vegetables and tended to be more prone to overweight than francophones, but were also more physically active. They also seem to have a stronger sense of community belonging.

The sample of anglophones was relatively small in this survey, which reduces its statistical power and may partially account for the limited differenc…

Monitoring Weight Status among Adults in Québec: Portrait and Evolution from 1987 to 2010

Reducing the prevalence of excess weight in the population in the short-term is one of Québec's public health objectives. The first part of this report provides a portrait of the current weight status situation based on the most recent data, and the second part presents weight trends since 1987.

The data collected in 2009–2010 revealed a prevalence of excess weight estimated at 50.5% for adults aged 18 and over. More specifically, 34.1% were overweight and 16.4% were obese. Between 1987 and 2010, the proportion of excess weight in Québec increased from one in three adults (34.6%) to one in two (50.5%).

Proportions of overweight and obesity rose significantly over these 23 years, but increases in both weight categories have slowed slightly since the early 2000s compared to the period from 1987 to 1998. Only severe obesity (class III) increased proportionately faster among adults in Québec between 2000 and 2010.

The average body mass index increased b…

Sleep and weight problems: A new avenue for intervention?

The prevalence of obesity has been growing steadily for a number of years. Obesity is usually associated with two major factors: increased calorie intake and reduced level of physical activity among the population. However, other variables may contribute to weight problems, including a lack of sleep. This issue of Topo will examine recent research results on the relationship between sleep and weight status, and potential links between the environment, sleep, and obesity. Sleep is a lifestyle habit that has been increasingly studied in recent years and has also been more closely associated with major problems of health and well-being (chronic diseases, mental health, child development, etc.), hence the importance of focusing on it.

The Influence of Economy-Based Agri-Food Policies on Diet and Weight: Synthesis Report

Obesity's increasing prevalence is of concern because of its impacts on the population health and its associated costs. To promote healthy public policies, this scientific advisory documents the influence of economy-based agri-food policies that can affect the population's diet and weight. To this end, the following economic measures are reviewed: agricultural subsidies, trade policies, agricultural research and development programs, agricultural promotion programs, agricultural initiatives to supply institutions such as agricultural surplus and Farm-to-School programs and, lastly, price interventions.

In light of the information compiled, this scientific advisory identifies three promising avenues for interventions to guide agri-food policies:

  • Increase the number of farmer's market offering fruits and vegetables, especially in disadvantaged areas
  • Develop processing policies that correspond to public health objectives
  • Develop school program…

The Impact of the Built Environment on Physical Activity, Diet, and Body Weight: Summary

The built environment has an influence on lifestyle and body weight

Physical activity is promoted through:

  • More walkable neighbourhoods
  • The presence of sidewalks, walking paths, and bike paths
  • A substantial presence of recreational and sports infrastructure including parks, pools, playgrounds, and sports clubs.

Healthy eating is promoted through:

  • Having easy access to food retailers that are located close to homes and that offer healthy foods at affordable prices.

The environment as the target of healthy public policy

Several health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), and Kino-Québec have identified the built environment as one of the targets for significant action to address weight-related problems in our societies and recommend:

  • Promoting active tr…