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  • Obesity Statistics 2024: Facts and Figures in the UK

Obesity Statistics 2024: Facts and Figures in the UK

Obesity is a rapidly increasing problem across the globe. It is a problem no less prevalent in the UK. However, few understand the scope and severity of the problem.

In this article, we will break down some of the most recent and revealing statistics surrounding obesity, how obesity affects your health and what you can do to lose weight.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 21-05-2024

Am I overweight?

Some people don’t realise they’re overweight until it’s too late. That’s why there is a medical classification for weight.

Weight is measured by body mass index or BMI. Your BMI is calculated using your height and weight. It tells you how much you should weigh based on your height.

BMI is the primary way to diagnose those who are clinically overweight or underweight. It’s not an ideal tool for everyone.

For instance, if you do strength training, a BMI calculator will not factor in muscle mass which may give you unreliable results.

What is an overweight BMI?

You can use the following formula to work out your BMI:

  • BMI = weight (kg) / (height (m))²

The formula will give you a value that will say whether your weight is healthy or not. There are also several tools online that will do it for you, such as on the NHS Trusted source NHS Government Source Go to source website.

The BMI chart below shows the weight ranges based on BMI.

BMI Chart

Underweight

Underweight
below 18.5

Healthy weight

Healthy weight
18.5 to 24.9

Overweight

Overweight
25 to 29.9

Obese

Obese
30 to 39.9

If you have a BMI of 40 or more, you are deemed morbidly obese.

Have obesity rates increased in the UK?

Yes, obesity rates have gradually increased in the last 20 years.

In 1993, around 53% of adults were classed as overweight or obese according to government data Trusted source House of Commons Library Government Source Detailed UK Parliamentary Briefings Go to source . 15% were classed as obese. This means there has been almost a 10% increase in obesity rates from 1993 to 2019.

Graph showing an increase in obesity rates from 1993 to 2019

Based on this trend, experts Trusted source UK Government Publications Government Source Go to source estimate that by 2040 this percentage will increase to over 70%. They also estimated that 21 million UK adults will be classed as obese.

What are the causes of obesity in the UK?

The main culprits for rising obesity rates are poor nutrition and little physical activity. However, some external factors come into play such as technology and social media.

Diet and nutrition

A balanced diet is important for healthy living. However, changing trends in UK diet culture have added to rising obesity rates.

This is no less true in children. The most recent National Diet and Nutrition Survey Trusted source UK Government Services and Information Government Source Go to source revealed that children aged 11-18 consumed over double the daily recommended intake of sugar.

Physical inactivity

Inactivity rates are contributing to our obesity.

An NHS report Trusted source NHS Digital Government Source Health and Social Care Digital Services Go to source found that 22% of adults were considered inactive as they do fewer than 30 minutes of physical activity a week. Activity levels generally fall with age and sharply decrease at 75 and above.

obesity statistics by agegroup

External factors

With the advancement of technology comes a new generation of obese children and adolescents.

Many studies Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source show significant associations between screen time and obesity. Higher rates of screen time in childhood predict obesity in adulthood.

Another study Trusted source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Government Source Go to source found that those who used media 6 hours or more per day had higher odds of unhealthy eating habits.

What are the health risks associated with obesity?

There are many health benefits to losing weight. This is because being overweight negatively affects your body in many ways.

It puts you at a higher risk of a seemingly endless list of health problems such as heart conditions, diabetes, muscle and bone problems, cancer and many more.

Maintaining a healthy weight is a key way to prevent some major health problems.

Heart disease

Obesity damages your heart and the rest of your cardiovascular system. It causes damage to your blood vessels and excess fatty deposits to build up.

This restricts your blood flow across your body and puts a strain on your heart muscle. It puts you at a higher risk of several cardiovascular conditions. Below are some obesity and heart disease statistics.

If you’re overweight, you are twice as likely Trusted source Health Survey for England Government Source Go to source to have high blood pressure (hypertension). A 2020 Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source study estimated that 65-78% of cases of high blood pressure are caused by obesity.

Being obese also raises your risk of high cholesterol, blood clots, heart failure and other heart conditions. Damage and strain on the heart can result in cardiac-related death if left untreated, such as from a heart attack.

Research from the British Heart Foundation found that 31,000 circulatory disease-related deaths in the UK every year are associated with being overweight.

Diabetes

Obesity is one of the leading causes of diabetes. Excess abdominal fat causes a chemical reaction that means the body is less sensitive to insulin.

According to an NHS public health survey, 90% of adults with type 2 diabetes in the UK are overweight or obese. In addition, around 60% of people with type 1 diabetes are overweight or obese.

Cancer

Being overweight does not guarantee cancer. But, a lot of evidence suggests it can put you at a higher risk of getting certain cancers.

Evidence compiled by Cancer Research UK suggests that more than 1 in 20 cases of cancer are caused by being overweight. A healthy weight can also significantly reduce your risk of 13 types of cancer.

For example, you are 7 times more likely Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source to develop endometrial cancer if you are severely obese. You are 2 times more likely to develop liver Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source , kidney Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source and oesophageal cancer Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source .

This is because excess fat on your body affects your body in several ways. It increases rates of growth hormones, inflammation and oestrogen. All of which can increase your rate of cancer cells developing.

Mental health

Obesity can also impact your mental health.

Research Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source indicates that being overweight can increase the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety by up to 70%.

A combination of factors can lead to mental health issues in obese people, including negative thoughts surrounding appearance (body dysmorphia), isolation from immobility and increased hormone levels.

How does obesity affect the NHS?

Obesity is a huge strain on public healthcare. This is due to the large number of related health conditions that require treatment.

A recent NHS report found that 1 million hospital admissions in England were linked to obesity in 2019 - 2020. This had increased by 17% compared to the previous year.

These rising admission rates come at a cost.

Obesity could cost the NHS over £9 billion by 2050.

Public Health England Trusted source UK Government Services and Information Government Source Go to source reported that the NHS spent over £6 billion on obesity and overweight-related health problems in 2017.

They predict this number will have increased to over £9 billion by 2050 if current trends don’t change.

How many people die from obesity?

Untreated obesity is a prevalent cause of death. The World Health Organisation estimates that at least 2.8 million people Trusted source World Health Organization (WHO) Government Source International Public Health Information Go to source die a year globally from being overweight or obese.

Research Trusted source University of Oxford Educational Institution Multidisciplinary Studies Go to source by the University of Oxford also found that moderate obesity can reduce your life expectancy by 3 years. In those with severe obesity, the figure is as high as 10 years. Some studies Trusted source National Institutes of Health (NIH) Government Source Biomedical Research Go to source have found this reduction is as much as 14 years.

These statistics are scary but these health risks can be avoided if you lose weight.

What can I do to prevent obesity?

Eating healthier food and introducing light exercise into your daily routine is the best first step to healthy weight loss.

Undoing years of exercise and diet habits is hard. It is why many people struggle to lose weight on their own.

Several prescription weight loss medications can help. At HealthExpress, we offer clinically proven weight loss treatments.

We have weight loss injections such as Wegovy, Mounjaro and Saxenda. We also offer weight loss tablets like Mysimba and Xenical (Orlistat).

Start your weight loss consult and find out if you are eligible for treatment.

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