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Adult obesity becoming more common

The average Singaporean today is heavier, more likely to overeat, and has a tendency to put on weight once he enters the workforce.

This is especially so among men, who typically put on 4kg in the first decade of starting work, new data from the Health Promotion Board (HPB) shows.

Between 2011 and 2016, researchers found that obesity rates generally stayed between 10 and 15 per cent for both sexes during the school years – that is, for children aged between five and 18.

However, the proportion of overweight people in each age bracket began to grow starting from age 21, when many people start full-time work.

Last year, 42 per cent of men aged between 30 and 39 were obese, as were 28 per cent of women.

Overall, the average Singaporean is 3kg heavier than his counterpart from 15 years ago, said the HPB’s Dr Annie Ling.

And while people have become slightly more active in recent years, they are also consuming more calories.

Worse still, the proportion of people who are exceeding their daily recommended calorie intake has grown – from 34 per cent in 1998 to 59 per cent in 2010.

Dr Melvin Look, a general surgeon in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said: “A 3kg increase in average weight over the last 15 years may not seem much, but it is a worrisome trend.”

Dr Look, who specialises in gastrointestinal and advanced laparoscopic surgery, added: “It is enough to push a large number of people from normal weight to overweight, and more significantly, put many overweight people to the obese range.”

A recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit said obesity is estimated to have cost Singapore up to S$2.77 billion last year in terms of healthcare and lost productivity.

Dr Ling said: “Adult obesity is extremely difficult to reverse. I think that has been well documented in the literature. I think we should really intervene as early as possible… we probably even need to go into the preschool setting.”

Civil servant Jonathan Lim, 29, said he has found it hard to stick to a regular exercise schedule since he started work four years ago, and estimated that he has put on around 5kg in the past two years.

“I work 12 to 13 hours daily, and I’m often too tired to exercise after work,” he said.

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