Introduction

Tackling obesity is one of the greatest long-term health challenges currently faced in England. Around two-thirds (63%) of adults are above a healthy weight, and of these half are living with obesity. In England 1 in 3 children leaving primary school are overweight or living with obesity with 1 in 5 living with obesity.

Obesity prevalence is highest amongst the most deprived groups in society. Children resident in the most deprived parts of the country are more than twice as likely to be living with obesity than those in the least deprived areas.

Obesity is associated with reduced life expectancy and a range of health conditions including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and respiratory disease and cancer. Obesity can also have an impact on mental health.

Tackling and preventing obesity is a high priority for the Government. The current policies and actions are set out in the following documents

This profile presents the latest available data to help understand and monitor the patterns and trends in obesity at national, regional, and local levels.

Data on child and adult overweight and obesity prevalence is available from the Health Survey for England. PowerPoint presentations of data from the National Child Measurement Programme and the Health Survey for England are available in the Reports Data view. These slide sets present child obesity data at national, regional, and local authority level, and adult obesity data at national level. Trends in overweight and obesity prevalence are shown and patterns are examined by age, sex, ethnic group, and area deprivation.

International data on adult and child obesity prevalence is published in the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory.

NCMP child obesity indicators

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of over one-million children in Reception (age 4-5 years) and Year 6 (age 10-11 years) each year in primary schools in England. The NCMP is an excellent source of surveillance data which helps increase understanding of the patterns and trends in underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obesity among the child population.

NCMP data from 2006/07 to 2019/20 is available in this profile. Prevalence of underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obesity and severe obesity can be examined at local authority level. Data quality indicators are also displayed, for example rate of participation in the NCMP. These indicators are usually updated annually in December each year.

To help identify pockets of high child obesity prevalence within local authorities this profile includes an NCMP small area data domain. Trend data is available on the prevalence of excess weight (overweight including obesity) and obesity for Middle Super Output Areas (MSOA), Electoral Wards, and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG).

School closures, in March 2020, due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic meant that in 2019/20 the number of children measured was around 75% of previous years. Analysis by NHS Digital shows that national and regional level data is reliable and comparable to previous years.The data at local authority level and below is not as robust, as a result a small number of areas do not have published data for 2019/20 and data for some areas has a reliability flag indicating that figures need to be interpreted with caution. Further information is available here and in the NHS Digital 2019/20 annual report.

The start of the 2020/21 NCMP was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic response. In March 2021 local authorities were asked to collect a representative 10% sample of data because it was not feasible to expect a full NCMP collection so late into the academic year. This sample has enabled national and regional estimates of children’s weight status (including obesity prevalence) for 2020/21 and contributes towards assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s physical health. As the final sample was not fully representative of the child population, weighting was applied to the analysis to make it comparable to previous years of NCMP data.

The 2020/21 NCMP collection achieved much more than the requested 10% sample; around 300,000 children (25% of previous full measurement years) had their height and weight measured. A small number of local authorities were able to collect more than the requested 10% sample, and local authority data has been published separately for the 25 out of the 152 upper-tier local authorities in England where 75% or more child measurements were submitted compared to previous full measurement years.

Where available, data is presented split by sex, ethnic group, and area deprivation in the Inequalities Data view.

Adult obesity indicators

The Active Lives Adult Survey conducted by Sport England collects data on self-reported height and weight among adults aged 18 years and over in Local Authority areas across England. The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities uses this data to produce estimates of adult excess weight prevalence for the Public Health Outcomes Framework. The data is adjusted at an individual level to better align with measured height and weight and then age standardised to improve comparability between local authorities.

Details of the self-report adjustment and age-standardisation are available in the definitions tab within the profile.

Prevalence of obesity, and excess weight (overweight including obesity) can be examined in this profile at local authority level. Comparisons can be made between areas and over time for data from 2015/16 to 2020/21. These indicators are usually updated annually in May each year.

Where available, data is presented split by age, sex, ethnic group, disability, area deprivation, working status, level of education, and socioeconomic class in the Inequalities Data view.

Local authority data on obesity in early pregnancy is also presented in the profile.

Contextual indicators

These indicators provide local authority level estimates for several topic areas that are determinants of or related to child obesity. For each topic area, where possible, the information is shown by sex, ethnicity, sexuality, region and local authority.