UK and Ireland prevalence and trends

Data on overweight and obesity among adults (defined as people aged 16 and over) are mainly from the Health Survey for England (HSE). Results for 2014 showed that 61.7% of adults were overweight or obese (65.3% of men and 58.1% of women). The prevalence of obesity is similar among men and women, but men are more likely to be overweight.

A substantial proportion of obese adults have a body mass index (BMI) of well over 30. Women are more likely than men to have extremely high BMI values.

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In England, the prevalence of obesity among adults rose from 14.9% to 25.6% between 1993 and 2014. The rate of increase has slowed down since 2001, although the trend is still upwards. The prevalence of overweight has remained broadly stable during this period at 36–39%.

The rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity has meant that the proportion of adults in England with a healthy BMI (18.5 - 24.9) decreased between 1993 and 2014 from 41.0% to 32.7% among men, and 49.5% to 40.4% among women. In England, currently 25.6% of adults (aged 16 years and over) are obese (HSE 2014).

By 2050 obesity is predicted to affect 60% of adult men, 50% of adult women and 25% of children (Foresight 2007).

Figure 1: Prevalence of obesity among adults aged 16+ years

Health Survey for England 1993-2014 (3-year average)

Prevalence of obesity among adults aged 16+ years

Adult (aged 16+) obesity: BMI ≥ 30kg/m2. Three year average of published prevalence figures.

Obesity prevalence appears to be increasing in all countries within the British Isles apart from Ireland and Northern Ireland, although the most recent data for Ireland is currently five years old. Scotland continues to have the highest prevalence of obesity. Figure 2 presents the best available data for each country.

Figure 2: Trends in adult prevalence of obesity in the UK and Ireland

Trends in adult prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥30kg/m2) in the UK

Adult (aged 16+) obesity: BMI ≥ 30kg/m2

Source: Scottish Health Survey, 2010
Health Survey for England, 2010
Health and social well being survey & Health Survey for Northern Ireland, 2010 Welsh Health Survey, 2010
Survey of Lifestyles, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLAN), 2007