Quarter of adults in England are obese, new data shows

By Editor
15th December 2022
NHS, Obesity Research

Around a quarter of adults in England were obese in 2021, according to the latest Health Survey for England. 

The report also found that around half of adults drank alcohol at least once a week, and about one in eight were current cigarette smokers.

Published by NHS Digital, the Health Survey for England, 2021 reports on the nation’s health and surveyed 5,880 adults about a variety of topics including cigarette smoking, e-cigarette use and alcohol consumption.

For most of 2021, interviews were carried out by telephone, rather than in person because of COVID-19 pandemic precautions.

As a result of these changes in data collection, findings from 2021 are not directly comparable with those from previous years.

Obesity: 

Figures for 2021 show that 26 per cent of adults in England were obese – with obesity increasing with age from 8 per cent of adults aged 16-24 to 32 per cent of those aged 65-74.

Obesity prevalence was lowest among adults living in the least deprived areas and highest in the most deprived areas.

More than 10 per cent of adults who were obese reported that they had received a diagnosis of diabetes from a doctor, compared with 5 per cent of overweight adults and 3 per cent of those who were neither overweight nor obese.

A higher proportion of men were either overweight or obese compared with women, the data shows.

Smoking:  

A total of 12 per cent of adults were current cigarette smokers.

Two-thirds of adults had never regularly smoked. More men than women reported that they currently smoked. 5 per cent of all adults were defined as current e-cigarette users.

More than 15 per cent of current smokers also currently used e-cigarettes as did 13 per cent of ex-regular smokers, but only 1 per cent of those who had never smoked cigarettes.

Drinking alcohol: 

A total of 79 per cent of participants reported that they had drunk alcohol in the last 12 months, and 49 per cent reported that they drank alcohol at least once a week. A higher proportion of men than women drank alcohol.

Men were more likely than women to drink at increasing or higher risk levels; 28 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women usually drank more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

The Health Survey for England is commissioned by NHS Digital and carried out by the National Centre for Social Research in conjunction with UCL, which co-authors the report.

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