Trends in obesity prevalence

The prevalence of obesity in England has more than doubled in the last twenty five years. Although this recent increase in the prevalence of obesity has been seen in virtually every country in the world, the rate of increase in England has been particularly high (see Figure 1).

Trend data for overweight and obesity prevalence are available from a number of sources, including OECD (presented in Figure 1) and WHO. Trend data are not available consistently for all countries; Figure 1 presents data for countries with the most complete and most up to date data.

Figure 1: Trends in adult prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥30kg/m2) – percentage of the adult population assessed as obese in a selection of countries

Source: OECD http://www.ecosante.org/index2.php?base=OCDE&langs=ENG&langh=ENG
*Self reported data (prevalence rates for the other countries are based on measured data)

For more information on international trends click here

The rapid increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity has resulted in the proportion of adults in England with a healthy BMI (18.5-24.9) decreasing between 1993 and 2010 from 41.0% to 30.9% among men, and 49.5% to 40.4% among women. In England, currently 26.1% of adults (aged 16 years and over) are obese (HSE 2010).

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

Figure 2: Trends in adult (aged 16+ years) obesity prevalence (HSE)

In addition 10.1% of boys and 8.8% of girls in Reception year (aged 4-5 years) and 20.6% of boys and 17.4% of girls in Year 6 (aged 10-11 years) are also classified as obese according to the British 1990 population monitoring definition of obesity (≥95th centile) (NCMP 2010/11) (Figure 3).

Figure 4 shows the trend in child obesity prevalence using data from the Health Survey for England. An increasing trend in child obesity prevalence is evident between 1995 and 2004. Particularly among older children, there is evidence of a slowing in the rate of child obesity since 2004. (Figure 3).

Figure 4 shows the trend in child obesity prevalence using data from the Health Survey for England. An increasing trend in child obesity prevalence is evident between 1995 and 2004. Particularly among older children, there is evidence of a slowing in the rate of child obesity since 2004.

Figure 3: Prevalence of obesity (with 95% confidence limits) by year of measurement, school year, and sex (National Child Measurement Programme)

Figure 4: Trends in child (aged 2-15 years) obesity prevalence (HSE)

For more information on obesity data and surveillance view Data Sources.

For further information about obesity surveillance see Obesity and Overweight Surveillance in England: what is measured and where are the gaps?

To find out more about data mapping and the NOO e-atlas click here

To find out more about NCMP data and analyses click here