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NHS data reveals more than one in four people in England are obese

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2 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
doctor with a patient in a GP surgery

Some 26% of people living in England are living with obesity, and the majority of the population are overweight, according to new NHS data.

The damning statistics have been published in the Health Survey for England, the service’s annual report on public health which covers areas like smoking and alcohol usage, as well as obesity and overweight prevalence.

According to the data, 69% of men and 59% of women were overweight or obese at the time of the survey.

The difference in weight between men and women was at its most distinct within middle-aged groups. Among those aged 16 to 24, 32% of men and 24% of women were either overweight or obese – a difference of just 8%.

However for those aged 45 to 54, 82% of men were classified as overweight or obese, compared with 65% of women – suggesting middle-aged men more likely to be overweight.

Obesity prevalence was highest among adults living in more deprived areas of the country. More than a third of people (34%) in the most deprived areas of England were obese – but this number decreased to a fifth (20%) in wealthier regions.

This data supports evidence presented in an NHS Digital report from earlier this year regarding children, which revealed a third of primary schoolchildren in Year 6 (aged 10 to 11) are living with obesity in the most deprived areas of England.

The report also shed light on how the prevalence of overweight and obesity was affecting the NHS and the health of the nation.

“The burden on the National Health Service due to obesity and related illnesses is well recognised. The monetary cost each year, uplifted for inflation, was estimated at £6.1 billion in 2019,” the report states.

More than one in 10 obese adults (11%) and one in 20 overweight adults (5%) surveyed said they had had a formal diagnosis of diabetes from a doctor.

Additionally, 51% of people classified as obese reported having a longstanding illness, which is defined as a condition that lasts more than 12 months.

The data presented in the report was collected via telephone in 2021, rather than in person, because of COVID-19 precautions. As a result, the NHS warns that this data is not directly comparable from previous years.

However, report authors highlighted wider trends with more comparable statistics ranging from 1993 and 2019. According to historic data, overweight (including obesity) increased from 58% of men and 49% of women in 1993 to 68% of men and 60% of women in 2019.

Learn more about the scale of obesity in the UK with this episode of the Food Matters Live Podcast:

Why the UK is heading towards having Europe’s highest obesity rate


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