Risk Dialogue Series - Health Risk Factors in Mexico

03 Mar 2015

No major emerging market has gained weight as rapidly as Mexico in the last twenty years. The switch from a diet based around corn and beans to one heavy in processed food and sugary drinks has been abrupt. The result has been a rapid increase in obesity-related non-communicable diseases NCDs, such as diabetes and hypertension. The authorities are acting; but they have an awful lot to correct, with weight increases being considerable among younger cohorts. Given Mexico has a relatively young population, future increases in NCDs could be dramatic.

Mexico may not be the undisputed ‘most obese country’ in the world, but it is certainly one of the challengers. Recent studies suggest that Mexico’s obesity rate may even be higher than that of the United States. With a prevalence of 33% of adults in 2012, it is the most obese country in Latin America. That undesirable state has been reached in a far shorter time span than in the US. The obesity rate doubled in the 19 years to 2012. The usual suspects of dietary transition and physical inactivity are both explanatory factors, with a number of Mexico-specific caveats, namely: a cultural preference for drinks high in sugar, partly the result of poor drinking water; proximity to the US and a preference for processed convenience foods; a highly urbanised population; and a culture or perception of violence in parts of the country that discourage walking or other exercise.

Key findings:

  • Hypertension is present in 1/3 of Mexicans in their 40ies which is causing high CVD mortality

  • Overweight and obesity among adults is among the highest in the world, with over 70% of adults having BMI over 25.

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This publication is part of the joint research collaboration by Swiss Re and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It describes the research undertaken by 45 colleagues from both institutions. It is an important component of what we call the Systematic Explanatory Analyses of Risk factors affecting Cardiovascular Health (SEARCH) project. The aim of our collaboration is to clarify the relationship between risk factors and health outcomes in the rapidly evolving countries of Brazil, China, India and Mexico. Their health profile is changing swiftly and significantly with economic growth. NCDs are rising rapidly, creating a major challenge for public and private providers and funders of health care.

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Andreas Obrist

Business Development Manager
Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue
Tel: +41 43 285 96 07

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To order print copies of the publication please mail to publications@swissre.com. Order no: 1506055_15_EN