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Obesity Epidemic in the UK: Causes, Effects and Complications

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This report is designed to provide information on health and social care in UK. The study is specifically focused on obesity epidemic in UK. The study will also be backed up with statistical evidence and the findings from previous studies which will be reported at the end of the report.

This report will explore the obesity epidemic, especially in the UK. The concept of obesity and the different definition of obesity by different studies will also be reviewed. The causes of obesity and who is affected by the disease, illnesses caused by obesity and how to overcome this endemic disease will also be looked into.


Based on the research conducted for this study, the following major findings were made.

  • According to statistical reports by Higgins (2019), 50% of UK citizens could be obese by 2030 if the current trend continues.
  • Ramsay (2020) predicted that obesity could affect 60% of male adults, 50% of female adults and 25% of children by 2050 if more effort is not made towards interventions.
  • Childhood obesity has become a critical epidemic with almost 1 in 5 children leaving primary school obese (RSPH, 2015)
  • The obesity rate in adults for both genders in England and Scotland is 29%. Meanwhile, 27% of the population in Northern Ireland is obese (News Sky, 2020).
  • According to (News Sky, 2020), women tend to have a slightly higher obesity rate than men.
  • According to News Sky (2020), the West Midlands has the highest rate of obesity at 33%, while London records the lowest at 24%.
  • Households with the lowest incomes have higher obesity rates. 34% of adults in households with the lowest incomes are obese, compared with 21% of the highest incomes (News Sky, 2020).

WHO (2020) defined obesity as an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk of health. Obesity is a complex disease that can increase the risk of other health challenges like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, etc. (Bubnis, 2020).

There have several views on the concept of obesity. John (2019) argues that obesity is a sickness caused by the consumption of more calories than the body can use. In a similar study, (NCBI, 2020) reported that obesity arises as a result of an energy surplus condition, which occurs when there is an energy imbalance between calories consumed and the calories expended, that results in excess body weight. This energy imbalance is partly as a result of deep social and economic changes at levels past the control of any individual (NIH, 2010).

In order to determine the difference between a normal weighted person and an obese person, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was established. The BMI standard of determining whether someone is obese or not, is a widely used standard, even in the UK (NHS, 2020). The body weight of a person according to BMI is determined by dividing the body weight of a person by the total height. The weight is measured in kilograms while the height of the person is measured in square meters. So, the procedure to determine if someone is obese is by measuring their weight and their height, dividing the weight by the height and obtaining the BMI index value (NHS, 2020). One might be quick to ask how a person is confirmed to be obese after the Body Mass Index is obtained. Well, for most adults, a BMI value between 18.5 and 24.9 only means that the person is healthy. Meanwhile, a person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is categorized to b over-weighted (NHS, 2020). Being overweight does not really translate to obesity, but people that are in this category have a higher chance of graduating to be obese. More so, people with a BMI between 30 and 39.9 are categorized to be obese. According to (MedicineNet, 2020), these persons are 20 percent weightier than their ideal weight after considering their height, age, sex and body build. Furthermore, persons that have BMI of 40 or above are considered to be severely obese. These sets of people are in danger of some chronic illnesses like stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, heart attack, high blood pressure, etc. (NHS, 2020).

Obesity Epidemic in the UK

The obesity epidemic in the UK has put the NHS under increasing pressure. The rate of admissions with diagnosis of obesity is increasing year by year ((Higgins, 2019)). According to News Sky (2020), obesity has nearly tripled in the last 40 years. However, there have been several interventions attempts by the Department of Health to tackle obesity in UK. One of these intervention programmes is the “fitter future for all” framework which was launched on the 9th of March, 2012 (DoH, 2020). The programme was targeted towards empowering citizens and sensitizing them in making healthy choices that could reduce the risk of overweight and obesity related diseases (DoH, 2020). Another obesity intervention is the “start active, stay active” programme which was recommended by UK chief medical officers on the physical activities that could help individuals maintain fitness in order to prevent obesity (Gov.UK, 2019). UK medical chiefs also designed guidance for children and young people with infographs and illustrations that is directed towards healthy everyday activities that could help in fighting obesity (DoH, 2020). The food in school’s policy which was launched in 2013 by the Department of Health was also directed towards alleviating children obesity (DoE, 2013. The childhood obesity campaigns and the general intervention of obesity in UK are pure indications that the medical industry understands the dangers of obesity and allots it the attention it deserves.

There are several factors that could lead to obesity. These factors differ based on individual differences. Some of the factors that are explained below:


According to Mayoclinic (2020), obesity can be inherited from parental genes. The accumulation and distribution of body fat is could be inherited from parents. How food is converted to energy after eating and how the appetite is regulated is also affected by the genes. More so, the amount of fat that is burnt during exercise was reported to be influenced by the gene (NHS, 2020).

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Lack of Exercise

One of the major causes of obesity is the choice of lifestyle and general behaviour (Balentine, 2020). Exercise is one obvious method of burning calories and staying in shape (Nunez, 2019). Failing to work out the muscles as little as possible causes the body to accumulate more calories than it burns off (Nunez, 2019). Reports have it that individuals that run in the morning are on a lesser risk of becoming obese. Exercise not only burns helps in burning calories, it also relaxes the mind and promotes good mood which helps in making other lifestyle choices (Nunez, 2019).

Poor Dieting

The easiest route to obesity, according to Gunnars (2020), is through poor dieting. Poor dieting is simply the failure to offer good and appropriate amount of nutrition to the body. Excess or insufficient nutrition has a wide range of negative effects on the body. Consuming high calories without burning them is one of the leading causes of obesity. According to (Pirgon, et al. 2015), most obese patients suffer depression and low self-esteem which pushes them to eat even more as a way to feel better. This method is destructive and only worsens the medical situation.

Other Causes of Obesity

Some medical conditions like arthritis can reduce the ability for individuals to work out which could lead to weight gain. Medications like antidepressants, anti-seizure, steroids, diabetes medications, etc. could also cause weight gain if not controlled through proper dieting (Mayoclinic, 2020). Furthermore, psychological factors, like boredom, sadness, anger could lead to excessive eating which could result to weight gain (MedicineNet, 2020).

Who is affected by Obesity?

Obesity is a general illness. It affects both the old and the young; male and female. The disease does not discriminate. However, according to NCHS (2020) data brief which was released in February, 2020, between 2017 and 2018, prevalence of obesity was 40.0% among young adults aged 20 to 39 years, 44.8% among middle-aged adults aged 40 to 59 years, and 42.8% among older adults aged 60 and older (News Sky, 2020). This only implies that obesity also tends to increase with age. In other words, a child that is not trained with a good dieting habit has a higher tendency of becoming overweight and a child that is overweight has a high likelihood of being obese as he climbs the age ladder (Davey, 2019).

Obesity exposes patients to diverse illnesses. Obese patients have a high-risk factor of developing life-threatening diseases like type 2 diabetes hypertension, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, some type of cancer, etc. (Lloyd, et al. 2018).

Apart from physical illnesses, obesity also causes emotional and psychological breakdown. The disease attacks the self-esteem of the patients which in most cases result in depression (Science Daily, 2019). Patients of obesity are found to feel depressed about their physical state which pushes some into alcohol and more diet abuse, worsening the case (WHO, 2017).

Overcoming Obesity

Overcoming obesity requires the right attitude towards overall behaviour. Lifestyle change is one of the most effective strategies for overcoming obesity. Consciously adopting a healthy dieting plan and being disciplined enough to follow it through. According to (NHS, 2020), eating more fruits and vegetables, substituting fried junks with wholegrain varieties like bread, rice, pasta or other starchy food, taking more milk and dry foods and reducing the amount of high in fat & sugar food intake can go a long way in putting an obese patient back in shape.

The importance of exercise in overcoming obesity cannot be overemphasised. Regular exercise helps in burning accumulated calories and helps to maintain a healthy weight. This reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and increases the health of the heart (NHS, 2020). Registering in a gym and following up a proper routine could go a long way in putting back an obese patient to shape. This not only reduces the risk of obesity, but prevents other life-threatening diseases like heart disease, stroke, etc.


Obesity is a complex disease. The best way to manage obesity is by maintaining a good diet, physical activity, and lifestyle changes. Managing obesity involves improving the overall health, not just about losing weight. The key to effective weight loss is consistency. It is important to draw out a diet plan that is realistic and easy to stick to in the long term. Achieving that perfect body is possible; it only requires consistency and self-discipline.

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Obesity Epidemic in the UK: Causes, Effects and Complications. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Obesity Epidemic in the UK: Causes, Effects and Complications.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
Obesity Epidemic in the UK: Causes, Effects and Complications. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2023].
Obesity Epidemic in the UK: Causes, Effects and Complications [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Dec 3]. Available from:
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