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Page last updated: Tue, 23 Mar 2010 18:13:06 GMT

Overweight and Obesity

Obesity is a complex disease, caused by a wide range of factors. At a basic level, people gain weight by eating more calories (energy) than they use over a prolonged period of time. Excess calories accumulate and are stored by the body as fat, leading to overweight and obesity. However, there are many variables, including biological, behavioural and societal influences that increase the likelihood of an individual gaining excessive weight.1

Overweight and obese people are at greater risk of ill health and premature death from a number of diseases. The greater the body mass above the ideal, the higher the risk. Severely obese individuals are likely to die, on average, 11 years earlier than those with a healthy weight.2

Overweight and obesity in London: key facts
Adults (16 years and over)

  • More than half of the adult population in London are either overweight or obese. The Health Survey for England (HSfE) found that 23% of men and 23% of women in London were obese, and a further 39% of men and 30% of women were overweight in 2008.3 The prevalence of overweight and obesity in London is similar to the rest of England.
  • Factors such as age and ethnicity can increase a person’s likelihood of being obese. Results from the London Boost survey show that a higher proportion (26%) of Londoners aged 55 years and over were obese compared with those aged 16-34 years (9%) or 34-54 years (18%) and that the Black or Black British groups had the highest prevalence of obesity (22%) of any ethnic group in London.4 Although these findings are consistent with HSfE results, the figures are not directly comparable due to differences in methodologies used.
  • The London Boost survey found the prevalence of adult overweight and obesity to be higher in Outer London (54%) compared with Inner London (46%). However, there was little variation in the prevalence of overweight and obesity between the more deprived and less deprived areas of London, and between each of the socio-economic groups.4

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  • Results from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) indicate that London has the highest prevalence of childhood obesity of all the English regions. In 2008/09, 11% of children in reception year (ages 4-5) and 21% in year 6 (ages 10-11) in London were obese. A further 12% of children in reception year and 15% of children in year 6 were overweight.5
  • There is significant inequality in the risk of obesity between London’s primary care trusts (PCTs). Six PCTs, mainly in inner and east London, have levels of obesity in year 6 which are significantly higher than the London average. Seven PCTs have levels which are significantly lower than the London average.5
  • The risk of obesity among children tends to be higher in more deprived areas of London compared with less deprived areas.6
  • Children from Black ethnic groups have a higher risk of obesity compared with children from London as a whole, while children from White British, White and Asian, Indian and Chinese ethnic groups have lower risk.6 This relationship partly explains the higher obesity risks in London, where one in five of the children is of Black ethnic origin compared to about 1 in 100 in the rest of England. However, some of the differences between ethnic groups may be due to differences in growth patterns and body composition, particularly height.7
  • In 2008 the HSfE found that 18% of boys and 20% of girls (aged 2-15) in London were obese.3 This survey did not find a significant difference in the prevalence of childhood obesity between London and other regions of England. As the HSfE is based on a relatively small sample, regional differences may not be evident.

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Policy context

Healthy weight, healthy lives asserts the Government’s ambition ‘to reverse the rising tide of overweight and obesity’ and outlines the strategy to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, with an initial focus on children. The target, which is part of a Public Service Agreement, is to reduce, by 2020, the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels. The report One year on reviews progress on the delivery of the strategy and sets out priorities for the future.

Locally, PCTs are required to set targets to reduce childhood obesity that meet community needs and will be agreed with the local education authority and partners. A toolkit has been provided to support PCTs to make plans that will secure changes in diet, promote healthy lifestyles and extend physical activity interventions.8

The Change4Life national social marketing campaign aims to prevent people from becoming overweight by encouraging a better diet and more physical activity – "Eat well, move more, live longer".

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Date Title Format
9 May 2011 Tipping the scales: childhood obesity in London Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
20 Dec 2010 Health survey for England 2009 Icon representing a uk/pubs/hse09report filetype Download resource icon
20 Dec 2010 National child measurement programme England 2009/10 Icon representing a uk/ncmp filetype Download resource icon
19 Nov 2010 Causes of childhood obesity in London: diversity or poverty? The effect of deprivation on childhood obesity levels among ethnic groups in London Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
10 Feb 2010 Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, 2010 Icon representing a  filetype Download resource icon
28 Jan 2010 Tale of two obesCities: comparing responses to childhood obesity in London and New York City Icon representing a cfm filetype Download resource icon
22 Dec 2009 Quality and outcomes framework 2008/09 Icon representing a uk/statistics-and-data-collections/audits-and-performance/the-quality-and-outcomes-framework/the-quality-and-outcomes-framework-2008-09 filetype Download resource icon
10 Dec 2009 National child measurement programme England: 2008/09 school year Icon representing a uk/statistics-and-data-collections/health-and-lifestyles/obesity/national-child-measurement-programme-england-2008-09-school-year filetype Download resource icon
30 Nov 2009 Healthy weight, healthy lives: supporting publications Icon representing a uk/en/Publichealth/Healthimprovement/Obesity/HealthyWeight/DH_108973 filetype Download resource icon
30 Nov 2009 Overweight and obesity surveillance in England: what is measured and where are the gaps? Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
31 Oct 2009 Obesity trends for children aged 2-11, 1993-2007 Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
30 Apr 2009 National Child Measurement Programme: detailed analysis of the 2007/08 dataset Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
25 Feb 2009 Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England Icon representing a uk/statistics-and-data-collections/health-and-lifestyles/obesity/statistics-on-obesity-physical-activity-and-diet-england-february-2009 filetype Download resource icon
16 Dec 2008 Health survey for England 2007. Volume 1. Healthy lifestyles: knowledge, attitudes and behaviour Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
19 Dec 2007 Obesity: the prevention, identification, assessment and management of overweight and obesity in adults and children. NICE guideline CG43 Icon representing a uk/CG43 filetype Download resource icon
17 Dec 2007 LA model based estimates of healthy lifestyles behaviours 2003-2005 Icon representing a uk/ filetype Download resource icon
17 Oct 2007 Tackling obesities: future choices. The Foresight report Icon representing a uk/foresight/our-work/projects/current-projects/tackling-obesities filetype Download resource icon
9 Oct 2007 Summary points from the 07/08 NCMP guidance Icon representing a doc filetype Download resource icon
26 Sep 2007 The national child measurement programme guidance for PCTs: 2007-08 school year Icon representing a uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_078689 filetype Download resource icon
18 Jun 2007 National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) Data-Capture Tool Icon representing a uk/ncmp filetype Download resource icon
11 May 2007 Measuring childhood obesity: guidance to PCTs on data handling Icon representing a pdf filetype Download resource icon
25 Aug 2006 Forecasting obesity to 2010 Icon representing a uk/PublicationsAndStatistics/Publications/PublicationsStatistics/PublicationsStatisticsArticle/fs/en?CONTENT_ID=4138630&chk=XVZ/60 filetype Download resource icon

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Key organisations