Global health statistics


  • Obesity is now a major disease in Africa, along with HIV Aids and malnutrition. In South Africa, one in three men and more than half the female populations are women are overweight or obese, while in Morocco 40% of the population is overweight (Source: International Diabetes Federation).

  • Employers in South Africa are introducing HIV/Aids management programmes, paying for anti-retroviral treatment for employees, and implementing HIV/Aids prevalence testing and monitoring in the workplace. The Old Mutual Healthcare Survey 2005 found that 71% of employers surveyed have already documented their HIV/Aids strategy, with a further 8% saying they will do so within the next 12 months.


  • Australian Aborigines have been reported to develop high rates of obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes after transitioning to a Western lifestyle from their traditional ‘hunter-gatherer’ lifestyle (high physical activity and low-calorie, low-fat, high-fibre diet) (source: American Obesity Association).

  • Almost a quarter of organisations in Australia provide health insurance for senior executives, 21% provide cover for management, 15% provide cover for technical or professional staff and 17% provide cover for operations or support staff (source: Mercer HR Consulting).

  • The annual cost of loss from time off work among Telecom Australia employees in 1994 was Aus$16.5m due to tobacco-related illness and Aus$5.5m due to alcohol-related illness. The cost to the Australian economy of tobacco-related illness is Aus$6bn every year (source: World Health Organisation).

  • According to Bupa, almost 50% of the population in Australia has private medical insurance – this compares to around 12% in the UK.


  • $16bn is the estimated cost of absence incurred by Canadian companies each year due to employee illness and disability (source: Watson Wyatt).

  • Canada is considered to be a pioneer in health promotion in the workplace (source: European Network for Workplace Health Promotion).


  • Smoking costs the Chinese economy £3.5bn each year. One in three cigarettes smoked in the world today are smoked in China (source: World Health Organisation).


  • According to a recent poll, European employers’ biggest concerns related to staff health are healthcare costs (33%), followed by occupational injury (19%), employee performance (11%), ability to recruit (11%), employee morale (11%) and ageing workforce (7%) (source: European Network for Workplace Health Promotion).

  • There is a social insurance model in France and Germany. There, healthcare is predominately financed by compulsory contributions from employers and employees, calculated as a proportion of earned income, paid into and managed by independent, not-for-profit, sickness funds. In France, employers contribute more than 12 % of their earnings, and in Germany they contribute around 7% (source:

  • The World Health Report 2002 estimates that over 3% of all disease burden in developed countries is caused by physical inactivity, and that over 20% of coronary heart disease and 10% of stroke in developed countries is due to physical inactivity. In 2002, over 40% of adults in EU countries reported no moderate-level physical activity in the past week (source: British Heart Foundation).


  • In Finland, the proportion of companies that have implemented or are implementing workplace health promotion programmes is roughly 80 % – the highest in Europe (source: European Network for Workplace Health Promotion).

  • It is compulsory in Finland for all employers to provide occupational healthcare (source:

  • A new study from Finland reveals that an increase in physical activity during commuting hours – walking or cycling to work – lowers the risk of all types of stroke (source: European Network for Workplace Health Promotion).


  • In Germany, not many employers focus on areas such as ergonomy and work/life balance initiatives are also not very common (source: Mercer HR Consulting).

  • Smoking costs the German economy $14.7bn each year (source: World Health Organisation).


  • Native Hawaiians have demonstrated a reduction in obesity and cardiovascular disease by returning to a traditional diet from a modern diet (source: American Obesity Association).

  • In the state of Hawaii employers in the private sector are required to provider health benefits for employees who work over 20 hours per week (source:

Hong Kong

  • One in four men and one in five women are likely to be affected by cancer at some time in their life in Hong Kong (source: World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong).


  • India, along with Brazil, China, Turkey and the US produces two-thirds of the world’s tobacco. However, unlike the other countries, India has one of the lowest cigarette consumption rates per person in the world. Seven bidis are sold for every one cigarette in India (source: World Health Organisation).


  • There are 290 McDonald’s restaurants in Italy. This compares to 1,115 McDonald’s restaurants in the UK and 12,804 McDonald’s restaurants in the US (


  • According to Bupa, almost 50% of the population in Ireland has private medical insurance – this compares to around 12% in the UK.


  • People in Japan have the longest life expectancy in the world. This could be part down to low cholesterol levels in traditional Japanese diet, which is practically free from saturated fats. Popular ingredients in a Japanese diet include fish, seaweed, tofu, soybeans, rice and soba noodles (source:

Mediterranean countries

  • The Mediterranean diet is a healthy mix of pasta, beans, fruits and vegetables with meats and seafoods, all served in small portions. Although the diet is not low in fat, the principal fat being olive oil, it is linked to lower rates of heart disease (source: CNN).

South America

  • Obesity and type 2 diabetes have been found to be less prevalent among Pima Indians living in Mexico compared to Pimas living in Arizona. The Pimas in Mexico have maintained a traditional lifestyle of higher physical activity and a diet including less fat and more complex carbohydrates (source: American Obesity Association).

  • Brazil’s population has experienced a 100% increase in obesity over the past 22 years in urban areas (source: World Heart Federation).


  • In 2003-04 an estimated 2.2 million people in the UK were suffering from an illness which they believed was caused or made worse by their current or past work (source: Health & Safety Executive).

  • In 2003-04 an estimated 39 million working days were lost overall, 30 million due to work-related ill health and nine million due to workplace injury (source: Health and Safety Executive).

  • The Health and Safety Executive says five million people in the UK feel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed by their work. But a recent survey by Mercer reveals almost two-thirds of companies do not provide any stress management support and over three-quarters of companies do not provide employee assistance programmes.

  • Despite increasing discrimination and risk legislation, 70% of employers do not undertake pre-employment health screening (source: Mercer HR Consulting).

  • More than half the companies providing private health insurance extend cover to all employees. And just one in 10 employers say NHS improvements will reduce the pressure to provide private cover for staff (source: Mercer HR Consulting).

  • More than one in three people in the UK will develop cancer during their lifetime. In the UK, up to about 12,000 cases of cancer (more than 4% of all cases) could be avoided if no-one exceeded a body mass index (BMI) of 25 (source: Cancer Research UK).

  • In the UK, a total of 67% of men and 52% of women have a BMI of 25 or more: this includes 25% of men and 20% of women who are obese (source: Cancer Research UK).

  • Smoking tobacco is the greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer; it causes more than 1 in 4 cancers in the UK. Tobacco-related illness costs the UK economy $2.25bn each year (source: Cancer Research UK/ World Health Organisation)


  • Rats fed a diet with 40% of calories from fat – about what the average American eats – failed learning and memory tests that a group which was fed lower-fat food was able to complete (source: University of Toronto).

  • Americans spend more than $30bn a year on weight-loss products or programmes (source: Washington Post).

  • During the past 20 years, obesity among adults has risen significantly in the US. The latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 30% of US adults aged 20 and older are obese. The percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980. Among children and teens aged 6-19 years, 16% are considered overweight  (source: American Obesity Association).

  • The total cost of obesity to US employers is estimated at $13bn per year. Health insurance costs account for $8bn, paid sick leave costs $2.4bn, life insurance costs $1.8bn and disability insurance costs $1bn (source: National Business Group on Health).

  • Smoking accounted for more than 6% of total healthcare expenses in the US in 1999 – a total of $76bn. Workplace smoking costs the US $47bn every year. In 2001, the average number of days off sick in the US for smokers was 6.16, for ex-smokers it was 4.53 and for never-smokers it was 3.86. Cigarette butts account for 20% of all rubbish collected in the US (source: World Health Organisation).

  • Eighty per cent of the large and medium-sized companies in the US run health promotion programmes. The reason for this is that in the US, employers carry a large share of the burden for financing health costs (source: European Network for Workplace Health Promotion).

  • In 2004, it cost US employers on average $6,679 per employee to provide health benefits. In a recent survey, two-thirds of large employers said that to reduce cost in 2006, they would shift more cost to employees (source: Mercer HR Consulting).

  • Ninety per cent of private insurance policies in the US are taken out by employers for their employees – costing employers nearly $100bn a year(source: Gordon Brown’s speech to the Social Market Foundation, March 2002).

  • In the US more than 40 million people have no healthcare coverage. If you lose your job, in the US, is usually means you lose your healthcare cover (source: Figures taken from KC Labor).


  • 30% to 40% of all cancers are directly linked to the foods we eat, the exercise we get and how well we watch our weight (source: World Cancer Research Fund).

  • Each year 6.7 million people worldwide die from cancer. Because of the size of its population around half of these people are in Asia (source: Cancer Research UK).

  • More than 15 billion cigarettes are smoked worldwide every day (source: World Health Organisation).

  • There are 76.3 million people with alcohol use disorders worldwide. At least 15.3 million have drug use disorders. For every dollar invested in drug treatment, seven dollars are saved (source: World Health Organisation).

  • Health promotion programmes often leave out one-third of the workforce such as freelancers, contract and temporary workers, home-based workers, part-time workers, and own-account self-employed. However, within the working population, some of these groups are particularly susceptible to stress (source: European Network for Workplace Health Promotion).



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