HealthDay News — The transition toward an information and knowledge-based society has increased the worldwide prevalence of obesity, according to a recent report.

For every 10% increase in information and communications technology in a population of 4.2 million people in a country the size of the United States, obesity increases an average of 1.4%, Anusuya Chatterjee, PhD, and Ross C. DeVol, from the Milken Institute, a nonprofit think-thank based in Santa Monica, Calif., reported.

They examined the association between knowledge-based technology, measured as the level of investment in information and communications technology (ICT) as a proportion of gross capital formation, and the prevalence of obesity in 27 counties that belonged to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development from 1988 to 2009.

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The researchers calculated increases by measuring the direct effects of less strenuous work and more sedentary behavior (1%) and the indirect effect of increased calorie consumption during screen-time activity (0.4%). A causal relationship between ICT investment and obesity prevalence was observed.

For countries with a high ICT investment rate, a 0.2% rise in obesity could be prevented with a 1% increase in physically active people, the researchers calculated.

Recommendations to prevent the obesity include financial and other incentives from employers; developing policies and programs to encourage walking and physical activity, including infrastructure to facilitate biking; advancing health literacy; and developing local community initiatives.

“Increased prevalence of obesity in emerging countries with large populations, such as China and India, could dwarf the rise in associated diseases and medical costs witnessed in the United States and other parts of the developed world,” DeVol said in a statement. “Pre-emptive strikes are necessary to avoid this outcome.”


  1. Chatterjee A, DeVol RC. “Waistlines of the World: The Effect of Information and Communications Technology on Obesity.” Milken Institute. Published: August 21, 2012.