Obesity in the UK is a growing problem.
The increase in poor quality convenience foods, the prevalence of labour-saving technology, increased car use and more people doing sedentary jobs, means that the population is getting larger all across the UK.
Britain has one of the highest rates for overweight children in Europe, with one in three adults predicted to be obese by 2012. This has enormous implications for both health service providers and individuals, as obesity is directly linked to serious health problems, increased mortality, and a lower life expectancy.
At present 9,000 adults die an early death each year due to obesity-related illness. Being obese puts you at greater risk of getting high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, a stroke, and some forms of cancer.
The number of people who are obese continues to increase at an alarming rate, with almost half coming from disadvantaged or low-income communities.
This article on obesity in the UK is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
How is obesity in the UK measured?
The most common method for finding out whether someone is overweight or obese is to use the Body Mass Index (BMI). This is a small mathematical formula that calculates a person’s weight (in pounds), divided by their height (in inches) multiplied by 703. There is a slightly different formula if using metric measurements (kilograms and metres).
A BMI of under 18.5 means you are underweight
18.5 to less than 25 is within the normal range
25 to less than 30 means you are overweight
Greater than 30 means you are obese
Greater than 40 means you are morbidly obese
The only drawback with the BMI method of measurement is that it’s not able to distinguish muscle (which is heavy) from fat, and occasionally very fit people (such as bodybuilders) can be classified as obese or overweight due to their weight compared to their size. Because of this, waist circumference is also used to help identify whether someone is overweight or not. A measurement greater than 88cm in women, and 102cm in men, means you have a raised waist circumference and therefore could be overweight.
Obesity trends in the UK
29% of men in the UK are obese
23% of women in the UK are obese
43% of men in the UK are overweight
33% of women in the UK are overweight
Unfortunately the trend is continuing upwards, with dire predictions about the levels of obesity in the UK in the near future.
Socio-economic factors causing obesity
Certain socio-economic factors are linked to being overweight:
Household Income – the risk of obesity in the UK increases the lower your household income, especially in women. Obesity is more common in adults employed in manual occupations as opposed to professional roles.
Ethnicity – For men, obesity in the UK is highest among the Black Caribbean and Irish groups, and women are more likely to be obese if they are from the Black African, Black Caribbean and Pakistani sectors.