The NHS is under increasing pressure from the inexorable rise in obesity in England, where there were more than 700,000 obesity-related hospital admissions in 2017/18, up by 100,000 on the previous year, according to the latest figures.
Almost a third (29%) of adults are now obese, the figures from NHS Digital show, an increase of 3% on the previous year. Just over 20% of children leaving primary school are also obese.
NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the food industry must act. “With almost 100,000 more hospitalisations in just one year, this is the latest evidence that obesity is causing deadly diseases including 13 types of cancer, heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes, while putting increasing strain on NHS staff and services.
Admissions for obesity-related causes, such as pregnancy complications, gallstones or joint problems, rose from 617,000 in 2016 to 711,000 in 2017. NHS Digital says this may be partly because of hospitals’ greater readiness to list obesity as a factor.
But there is no respite for the NHS in sight, because the statistics show that the numbers of adults who are obese is continuing to rise. In 2017, 29% of adults – nearly a third – were obese, which is a 3% increase on the previous year. Morbid obesity, with a body mass index (BMI – a relationship between height and weight) of 40 or more, has risen from fewer than 1% in 1993 to 4% in 2017.
Most adults in England – 67% of men and 62% of women – were either obese or overweight. Men were more likely to be overweight (40%) than obese, while women were more evenly split with 31% overweight and 30% obese. The lowest levels of overweight and obesity were in London and the highest were in Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands.Caroline Cerny, of the Obesity Health Alliance, a coalition of more than 40 health-related organisations, said: “There is no single solution to reducing obesity but it is clear that our whole environment needs to change to help everyone to eat well. This will take strong action from government to restrict promotions and advertising of junk food and hold the food industry to account to make everyday food and drinks less sugary.”
“Councils are leading efforts to fight obesity but have seen their public health funding budgets fall by £700m in real terms since 2015/16, which needs to be reversed in the upcoming spending review if they are to continue this cost-effective work and reduce health inequalities between different areas.”