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Adult obesity in England

The Health Survey for England 2019 estimates that 28.0% of adults in England are obese and a further 36.2% are overweight but not obese. Obesity is usually defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. BMI between 25 and 30 is classified as ‘overweight’.

The survey found that men are more likely than women to be overweight or obese (68.2% of men, 60.4% of women). People aged 45-74 are most likely to be overweight or obese.

The survey did not take place in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Around three quarters of people aged 45-74 in England are overweight or obese

In the most deprived areas in England, prevalence of excess weight (overweight or obese) is 9 percentage points higher than the least deprived areas. 

Since 1993 the proportion of adults in England who are overweight or obese has risen from 52.9% to 64.3%, and the proportion who are obese has risen from 14.9% to 28.0%.

For policy information, please see our other briefing paper Obesity.

Childhood obesity in England

14.4% of reception age children (age 4-5) are obese, with a further 13.3% overweight. At age 10-11 (year 6), 25.5% are obese and 15.4% overweight. This data is from 2020/21 and is gathered as part of the National Child Measurement Programme.

These figures show large increases on the previous year (2019/20), when 9.9% of children aged 4-5 and 21.0% of children aged 10-11 were obese.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020/21 collection was carried out as a sample and statistical weighting was applied to the data to produce a national estimate. Nevertheless, NHS Digital says that the results are “broadly comparable” to previous years.

Block chart showing the proportion of children aged 4-5 and 10-11 that are overweight or obese. Of every thousand 10-11 year olds in England, 255 are obese and 154 are overweight. Of every thousand 4-5 year olds in England, 144 are obese and 133 are overweight.

In both age groups, boys are slightly more likely than girls to be obese. This difference is less than one percentage point at age 4-5 (reception), but rises to 8.5 percentage points among ages 10-11 (year 6).

Childhood obesity and deprivation

Children living in deprived areas are substantially more likely to be obese. Among reception (age 4-5) children in 2020/21, 9.1% of those in the least deprived areas are obese compared with 19.7% of those in the most deprived areas. In Year 6 (age 10-11), 15.5% of children in the least deprived areas are obese, compared with 32.1% in the most deprived areas. So in both age groups, children in the most deprived areas are approximately twice as likely to be obese. Rates of severely obese children are around four times higher in the most deprived areas.

The population-based maps below show the areas of England in which children are more or less likely to be overweight or obese. Click the thumbnails to download. This data is for 2019/20 because local authority level data was not available in 2020/21.

Map of overweight and obesity rates in Reception age children in EnglandMap of overweight and obesity rates in Year 6 children in England

Also in this briefing

As well as local authority data for England, the full briefing (download available above) includes data for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as international comparisons. In addition to statistics on the prevalence of obesity, this briefing gives trends in bariatric surgery for obesity.

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