Americans are fatter, but not lazier, than Europeans

December 6, 2012

Earlier this week, we learned which Europeans weigh most, exercise least and buy the most alcohol. You can get the full run-down here, but here's the bite-sized version.


Evy Mages/ Washington Post

Alcohol consumption:

Highest (not including Luxembourg*): Latvia

Lowest: Italy

Obesity rates:

Highest: Hungary

Lowest: Romania

Physical activity (teens):

Highest: Austria

Lowest: Italy

*Much of the alcohol in Luxembourg is purchased by foreigners, because of Luxembourg's lower-than-average alcohol taxes.

A few readers wrote to us and asked how the United States stacks up against the countries on the list. In the spirit of schadenfreude, we've obliged.

The report was limited to the E.U., but here's the stats from the OECD site.

United States

Americans drink a paltry 8.7 liters of alcohol annually per capita, putting them somewhere near the bottom of the E.U. list, right between Cyprus and the Netherlands.

Olga Khazan
Olga Khazan

However, the United States outranks nearly every European country in weight, with a 35.9 percent obesity rate. 

Here's how the obesity rates would look if the United States were in Europe:

As for physical activity, Americans have a promising start. Nearly 27 percent of American children ages 11 to 15 were physically active in the past week in 2006, the most recent OECD survey that compares the United States with European countries. On exercise, American kids were only beat by the Irish and by the -- apparently very athletic -- Slovaks.

Screenshot: OECD
Screenshot: OECD

So among all the underlying causes of Americans' sky-high obesity rates, an overabundance of beer and a lack of childhood exercise are probably not the main ones. (Oh, and it's not the holidays, either.)

Read the original story here.

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Max Fisher | December 6, 2012