Latest obesity stats for England are alarming

Behind the Headlines

Thursday February 21 2013

Obesity rates continue to rise

Most of the UK news media is covering the latest official NHS statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet in England.

The data, compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, relates to information gathered during 2011. The statistics paint an alarming picture that reveals that the obesity epidemic in England shows no signs of abating anytime soon.


What were the key findings?


  • The proportion of adults with a healthy body mass index (BMI) – defined as being between 18.5 and 25 – fell to just 34% in men and 39% in women during 2011.
  • There has been a marked increase in obesity rates over the past eight years – in 1993 13% of men and 16% of women were obese – in 2011 this rose to 24% for men and 26% for women.
  • For children attending reception class (aged 4-5 years) during 2011-12, 9.5% were obese.

Health outcomes

  • In 2011, 53% of obese men and 44% of obese women were found to have high blood pressure.
  • During 2011-12 there were 11,736 hospital admissions due to obesity – this over 11 times higher than during 2001-02.

Is there any good news?

Well, as bleak as the picture may appear, there are some cautious reasons for optimism that include:

  • 24% of men and 29% of women are regularly consuming their recommended daily five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables – for children, this figure is 16% for boys and 20% for girls.
  • 36% of adults are participating in moderate intensity activity at least once a week.
  • In 2011, there was a drop of 900,000 prescription items for the treatment for obesity compared to the previous years.

What is driving the epidemic?

The underlying causes of the UK’s (and most of the developed world’s) obesity epidemic are not addressed in the report, but there is a large consensus of expert opinion that the following factors are responsible:

  • There is easy access to cheap, high-energy food that is often aggressively marketed to people.
  • People’s lifestyles and jobs are much less active than in the past and many leisure activities such as watching television, playing video games and browsing the internet are usually done sitting down.
  • People drive or use public transport and walk a lot less than they used to.

Read more about the causes of obesity.

How is obesity treated?

There are four main goals in the treatment of obesity:

  • To prevent further weight gain.
  • To gradually lose weight through a combination of a calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise.
  • To avoid regaining any lost weight.
  • To improve your general state of health and reduce your risk of obesity-related complications.

Read more about the treatment of obesity.

Edited by NHS Choices. Follow Behind the Headlines on twitter.

Edited by NHS Choices

Links to the headlines

Number of people hospitalised because of weight triples in five years. The Guardian, February 20 2013

One in ten school-starters is obese, a figure that doubles by senior school. Daily Mail, February 21 2013

“Spiralling out of control": Now 1 in 10 kids clinically obese by the time they start primary school. Daily Mirror, February 20 2013

Only one in three men 'a healthy weight'. The Daily Telegraph, February 21 2013

1 in 10 children ‘clinically obese’ by the time they start going to school. Metro, February 20 2013

Further reading

The Health and Social Care Information Centre. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet - England, 2013. Published online February 20 2013


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