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Overweight Adults Dont't Know The Risks PDF Print Email

According to the latest report carried out for Aviva, overweight people in the UK are unaware of the risks to them.  About half of the adults in the UK are now classified overweight (31%) or obese (19%) according to their BMI and a high proportion of them think they are in very good or excellent health.  They are unaware of the potential risks to their health that their condition or lifestyle brings.


The Health Check UK report also shows that increased BMI levels are affecting happiness and self-esteem. While lack of exercise and poor diet are expanding waistlines, it also found that financial problems are increasing the country’s poor health and causing an increase in anxiety, depression and sleeping problems.

The new report aims to track the physical and mental health of the country over time using trends in diet, exercise, body mass index (BMI), illness and general wellbeing. It surveys 2,000 adults to identify patterns of health and wellbeing across regions, generations and different body types. The report also considers the effect that finances, work and family pressures are having on the health of the nation.


Denial of weight-related health issues

A high proportion of people with an unhealthy BMI think they are healthy, with nearly a third (32%) of obese people and half (48%) of those who are overweight believing they are in very good or even excellent health.

This is despite a much higher proportion of obese adults visiting their doctor for conditions known to be weight-related such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

A quarter (26%) of those who are obese sought treatment for high blood pressure in the last 12 months, compared to 19% of those who are overweight and 9% who have a healthy BMI. A fifth (19%) visited their GP for diabetes or thyroid complaints (compared with 9% for those overweight and 3% for those who have a healthy weight.) Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain are also more frequent amongst the obese.

Mental health issues such as depression are more common too: 17% of those who are obese sought help for a mental health condition from their GP in the last year, compared with a UK average of 13%. Most surprisingly, few of those who are obese - just 12% - sought help for managing their weight.

5 a day: caffeine consumption greater than fruit and veg

A quarter of the UK population (25%) do not even have a single portion of fruit or vegetable each day – despite the high profile 5 a day recommended and more recently the call for a minimum of 7 a day. Just one fifth (20%) meet the target of 5 a day.

More Britons however have at least five shots of caffeine every day, with 28% having at least five cups of tea or coffee as part of their daily routine.

A third (34%) have at least one portion of chocolate or crisps every day and a quarter (25%) have daily cakes, biscuits and pastries. The nation's sugar intake is further supplemented with a quarter (26%) having at least one fizzy drink a day – rising to 33% amongst the obese.

Exercise levels

The UK is generally making efforts to keep fit, with 58% saying they exercise at least twice a week, though one in six (17%) count housework or jobs around the house as a workout, meaning some respondents may not be as active as they think.

Amongst the obese, around a third (29%) never exercise, compared to a UK average of 17%. Over a third of the UK, 35%, also say they don't know how much exercise they should be taking, while over half (56%) say they know they should do more but find it boring or hard work. Four out of 10 (39%) say they're too tired.

Mental wellbeing

Over a third of the UK population (34%) has suffered from stress in the last year and a fifth (21%) has experienced anxiety. Similar numbers of people have faced depression (21%) and been affected by insomnia (20%).

Of Britons who say their health is poor, over half (53%) have suffered from stress compared with a quarter of people who are in good health. Rates of insomnia, anxiety and depression are also higher for those with poor health.

With a continued squeeze on finances as people struggle out of recession, it is no surprise that financial concerns and work pressures are the two highest causes of stress. 37% of people with stress say work pressure is the cause, while money worries are cited as the main reason for anxiety (33%), depression (26%) and insomnia (22%).

The report also shows how happiness declines as BMI increases, with self-esteem clearly affected by weight. Just a third of obese people (33%) are happy with how they look compared with 79% of people with a healthy BMI. Two fifths (39%) of obese and a quarter (25%) of overweight people also say they are depressed about their weight.

Good intentions, lack of motivation

The nation's biggest health ambition is losing weight, with two in five people (39%) saying they want to improve their BMI. However, half (47%) of those classed as overweight and over a quarter (28%) of those who are obese have no desire to lose weight and are ignoring the need to change their diet and do more exercise.

Just a quarter (24%) of those who are obese want to feel more physically fit and while the majority (81%) are aware that they should eat more healthily, just a fifth (21%) say they actively want to eat a more balanced diet.

Half of those who are obese (49%) and a third who are overweight (35%) also state that they are unhappy with how they look but lack motivation to do anything about it.

Who is more at risk of poor BMI?

Women are more likely to be a healthy weight, 46% compared with 41% of men, and not surprisingly people gain weight as they age, with 23% of over-55s spoken to falling into the obese range. However, there is a significant acceleration in the rates of poor BMI in the mid-30s, with 37% of 25-34 year olds either overweight or obese, rising sharply to 54% of 35-44 year-olds.

There is also a clear north-south divide when it comes to healthy BMI, with those living in the north more likely to be overweight or obese. Wales, the North East and Yorkshire and the Humber top the table as the heaviest regions in the UK, with 56% of residents being overweight or obese. Scotland comes in just below at 54%. London has the highest proportion of people with a healthy BMI (50%), followed by the South West (49%).


If you are worried about your weight, or someone else who is overweight or even unsure if you are overweight or want to know what your BMI is, your local pharmacy is a good place to start.  You don’t need an appointment and can usually pop in at any time for a free, friendly chat.  Most pharmacies also offer confidential consultation rooms.

They can offer help with losing weight as well as a range of associated conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes or pain.  You can get checked out and then decide on the next steps if necessary.