Obesity module 1: management in primary care

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Geographical variations

There has been a startling recent increase in the prevalence of overweight and obese people in virtually every country in the world (see figure 1) with  rates of obesity more than doubling in the UK and USA in the last 25 years.2,4

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Figure 1. Trends in adult prevalence of obesity – percentage of the adult population assessed as obese in a selection of countries from around the world (click any image to enlarge)

In England, Health Survey for England (HSE) data for 2012 showed that around 62% of adults were overweight or obese (67% of men and 57% of women). The prevalence of obesity is similar among men and women, but men are more likely to be overweight.5

The prevalence of obesity in England among adults rose from 15% to 25% between 1993 and 2012 (see figure 2). The rate of increase has slowed down since 2001, although the trend is still upwards. The prevalence of excessive weight has remained broadly stable during this period at 37–39%.5

Figure 2. Prevalence of obesity in England among adults aged 16+ years
Figure 2. Prevalence of obesity in England among adults aged 16+ years

Obesity prevalence appears to be increasing in all countries within the UK apart from Northern Ireland. Scotland has the highest prevalence of obesity in the UK. In Ireland, obesity does not appear to be increasing although the most recent data for this country is more than five years old. Figure 3 presents the best available data for each country.5

Figure 3. Trends in adult prevalence of obesity in the UK
Figure 3. Trends in adult prevalence of obesity in the UK