International comparisons of preventable risk factors
Preventable risk factors such as tobacco smoking, being overweight, physical inactivity and harmful use of alcohol contribute to the global burden of non-communicable diseases. These risk factors can be influenced by effective policies (e.g. the smoking ban) and public health campaigns. Here we compare the prevalence of obesity, tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption internationally over time.
Definitions and comparability for the indicators are taken directly from the OECD report Health at a Glance 2017: OECD indicators. Detailed information about the definitions and the source and methods for each country can be found here.
The proportion of daily smokers is defined as the percentage of the population aged 15 years and over who report tobacco smoking every day. Other forms of smokeless tobacco products, such as snuff in Sweden, are not taken into account. This indicator is more representative of the smoking population than the average number of cigarettes smoked per day, as the act of smoking is more determining than the quantity. Most countries report data for the population ages 15+, but there are some exceptions.
Overweight and obesity are defined as excessive weight presenting health risks because of the high proportion of body fat. The most frequently used measure is based on the body mass index (BMI), which is a single number that evaluates an individual's weight in relation to height (weight/height2, with weight in kilograms and height in metres). Based on the WHO classification, adults over age 18 with a BMI greater than or equal to 25 are defined as overweight, and those with a BMI greater than or equal to 30 as obese. Most countries report data for the population aged 15+, but there are some exceptions. Overweight and obesity rates can be assessed through self-reported estimates of height and weight derived from population-based health interview surveys, or measured estimates derived from health examinations (which we have used here). Estimates from health examinations are generally higher and more reliable than from health interviews.
Recorded alcohol consumption is defined as annual sales of pure alcohol in litres per person aged 15 years and over. Most countries report data for the population aged 15+, but there are some exceptions. The methodology to convert alcohol drinks to pure alcohol may differ across countries. Official statistics do not include unrecorded alcohol consumption, such as home production. In some countries, national sales do not accurately reflect actual consumption by residents, since purchases by non-residents may create a significant gap between national sales and consumption.