Health Survey for England 2017

NHS Digital | December 2018 | Health Survey for England 2017: Summary of key findings 

The majority of adults (64%) in England in 2017 were overweight or obese reports the UK  Health Survey for England 2017. It finds that males were more likely to be overweight (but not obese) compared to females, but females were more likely to be obese.

health survey
Image source:

There was an association between the weight of the parents and children. Offspring of obese mothers were 28 per cent more likely to be obese, almost a quarter (24 per cent) of children of obese fathers were obese.

Current cigarette smoking among adults has steadily declined between 1993 and 2017 (from 27% to 17%). Adults that have never regularly smoked cigarettes increased from 46% to 57% over the same period. 6% of all adults were current users of e-cigarettes.  15% of current cigarette smokers were using ecigarettes.  Although 38% of current smokers had never used an e-cigarette.

Fewer than a third (29 per cent) of adults ate the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables in 2017; with less men than women eating the recommended amount.

Average alcohol intake was 11.8 units a week- with men on average consuming more alcohol than women.  (Source: NHS Digital)

Read the full report from NHS Digital 

In the news:

BBC News Most adults living unhealthy lifestyles

New plan announced by NHS Chief to tackle Type 2 diabetes epidemic

NHS England | November 2018 |Very low calorie diets part of NHS action to tackle growing obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemic

NHS Chief executive Simon Stevens has announced that people recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes will be trialled as part of a new NHS long term plan, which will increase the focus on prevention as well as treatment.


As well as improving the health of patients,this will also save the NHS money that can be reinvested in frontline care. Currently, the health service in England spends around 10% of its budget on treating diabetes.

The scaling up of the NHS DPP scheme, the first in the world to become available country-wide, comes after it proved even more successful than planned with patients losing on average a kilogram more than expected.

The nine month programme helps people to:

  • achieve a healthy weight
  • improve overall nutrition
  • increase levels of physical activity

Online versions of the DPP, which involve wearable technologies and apps to help those at risk of Type 2 Diabetes, will also be provided for patients who find it difficult to attend sessions because of work or family commitments (Source: NHS England).

Full news release available from NHS England 

In the news:

BBC News Type 2 diabetes: NHS to offer 800-calorie diet treatment

ITV News Liquid diet to be prescribed to diabetes patients

Evening Standard Liquid diet for type 2 diabetes patients after trial puts condition into remission

Understanding the causal influence of higher BMI on depression

Tyrell, J. et al | 2018|Using genetics to understand the causal influence of higher BMI on depression |International Journal of Epidemiology|  dyy223|

UK and Australian researchers used data from the UK Biobank, as part of a randomization study involving 48 791 individuals with depression and 291 995 controls participants aged between 37 and 73 recruited in 2006-10. The team looked at a number of genetic variants associated with a high BM, that are also linked with a higher risk factor for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. In conjunction they looked at a further 14 genetic variants associated with a high percentage of body fat but also with a lower risk of such health problems.


The team then looked at participants’ hospital data and responses given by participants to a number of questionnaires – some of which included  self-reports of seeing a GP or psychiatrist for anxiety or depression. From this the team spotted about 49,000 participants whom they were confident had depression.

The team found participants with a higher BMI were more likely to develop depression.



Depression is more common in obese than non-obese individuals, especially in women, but the causal relationship between obesity and depression is complex and uncertain. Previous studies have used genetic variants associated with BMI to provide evidence that higher body mass index (BMI) causes depression, but have not tested whether this relationship is driven by the metabolic consequences of BMI nor for differences between men and women.


We performed a Mendelian randomization study using 48 791 individuals with depression and 291 995 controls in the UK Biobank, to test for causal effects of higher BMI on depression (defined using self-report and Hospital Episode data). We used two genetic instruments, both representing higher BMI, but one with and one without its adverse metabolic consequences, in an attempt to ‘uncouple’ the psychological component of obesity from the metabolic consequences. We further tested causal relationships in men and women separately, and using subsets of BMI variants from known physiological pathways.


Higher BMI was strongly associated with higher odds of depression, especially in women. Mendelian randomization provided evidence that higher BMI partly causes depression. Using a 73-variant BMI genetic risk score, a genetically determined one standard deviation (1 SD) higher BMI (4.9 kg/m2) was associated with higher odds of depression in all individuals and women only. Meta-analysis with 45 591 depression cases and 97 647 controls from the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (PGC) strengthened the statistical confidence of the findings in all individuals. Similar effect size estimates were obtained using different Mendelian randomization methods, although not all reached P  more than 0.05. Using a metabolically favourable adiposity genetic risk score, and meta-analysing data from the UK biobank and PGC, a genetically determined 1 SD higher BMI (4.9 kg/m2) was associated with higher odds of depression in all individuals, but with weaker statistical confidence.


Higher BMI, with and without its adverse metabolic consequences, is likely to have a causal role in determining the likelihood of an individual developing depression.

Read the full article in The International Journal of Epidemiology 

In the news:

Science Daily ‘Strongest evidence yet’ that being obese causes depression

Guardian Genetic link between obesity and depression uncovered, say scientists

Promoting healthy weight in children, young people and families

A resource to support local authorities, NHS commissioners and providers, voluntary and community sector organisations to take action to reduce obesity | Public Health England


This resource is made up of briefings and practice examples to promote healthy weight for children, young people and families as part of a whole systems approach.

It supports:

  • local authorities
  • Clinical Commissioning Groups
  • other NHS partners and non-government agencies

The briefing papers help to:

  • make the case for taking action to reduce childhood obesity
  • give examples of actions that can be taken
  • provide key documents that form the evidence base and other useful resources

Practice examples are also given to illustrate what local areas are doing.

The briefings have been developed so they can be used as standalone documents and downloaded separately, or as part of the wider resource.

Full documents:

Record high levels of severe obesity found in Year 6 children

Public Health England | October 2018 |Record high levels of severe obesity found in Year 6 children

Data published earlier this week in the national child measurement programme (NCMP), shows the rate of severe obesity among year 6 children (aged 10 to 11) has increased by more than a third since 2006 to 2007 to 4.2%, its highest rate ever. 


 The latest data from the  overseen by Public Health England (PHE), also shows stubborn inequalities persist, with obesity in deprived areas more than double that of more affluent areas.

The NCMP provides the most comprehensive picture of the state of childhood obesity for the 2017 to 2018 school year in England. It found:

  • the proportion of overweight and obese children in reception year (aged 4 to 5) has remained stable at 22.4% (equal to 136,586 children)
  • for year 6 children, it is 34.3% (equal to 197,888 children) compared to 31.6% in 2006 to 2007
  • in the most deprived areas, 12.8% of children in reception year are obese, compared to 5.7% in the least deprived areas
  • in year 6 it is 26.8% in the most deprived areas, compared to 11.7% in the least deprived areas
  • in both age groups, severe obesity is 4 times higher in deprived areas (Source: PHE)


Read the full press release at Public Health England 

Of interest:

BBC News Severe obesity four times more likely in poor primary schools

Obesity set to become the biggest preventable cause of cancer for females

Cancer Research UK |September 2018| When could overweight and obesity overtake smoking as the biggest cause of cancer in the UK?  

Cancer Research UK report that overweight and obesity are on track to overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women in around a quarter of a century, if current trends continue as projected. 


Image source:

The study is the first attempt to quantify and compare the future smoking- and overweight and obesity attributable cancer burdens.  Cancer Research UK projects that smoking and overweight and obesity could cause 20,000 more cancer cases by 2035 than the 75000 cases in 2015.  In seventeen years’ time  one-tenth of cancers in women (around 25,000 cases) could be caused by smoking and just less than one-tenth (around 23,000 cases)  attributed to excess weight.




Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said:

“Obesity is a huge public health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done. The UK Government must build on the lessons of smoking prevention to reduce the number of weight-related cancers by making it easier to keep a healthy weight and protect children, as those who are overweight are five times more likely to be so as an adult.

The report has been released to coincide with the launch of the charity’s UK-wide campaign to increase awareness that obesity is a cause of cancer (Source: Cancer Research UK).

Cancer Research UK [Press release] Obesity could overtake smoking as biggest preventable cause of cancer in women

Cancer Research UK  [Report] When could overweight and obesity overtake smoking as the biggest cause of cancer in the UK?   

See also: OnMedica Obesity as cause of cancer set to overtake smoking

Diabetes epidemic predicted to increase rise in heart attacks and stroke

British Heart Foundation | August 2018 | Growing diabetes epidemic to trigger ‘sharp rise’ in heart attacks and strokes by 2035

Currently  in England, nearly 4 million people are living with diabetes. Extrapolation of data based on the increasing number of people with diabetes predicts that almost  39,000 people living with diabetes suffering a heart attack in 2035 – a rise of 9,000 compared to 2015 – and over 50,000 people suffering a stroke – a rise of 11,000.


BHF expect that to rise to over 5 million over the next 20 years, as a result of the population’s  worsening lifestyles and the UK’s growing obesity rates.  As well as the increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, this rise in diabetes cases will increase the number of people suffering from conditions including angina and heart failure. BHF forecasts this will put further pressure on the NHS with previous estimates suggesting the yearly cost of treating people with diabetes will be £16.9 billion by 2035, up from £9.8 billion in 2012.

BHF are underlining  urgent need for ‘bold action’ to tackle lifestyle factors, such as obesity and a poor diet, that are leading to spiraling rates of diabetes, as well as a greater focus within the health sector on earlier diagnosis.

Read the full news story at BHF 

In the news:

BBC News Rise in diabetes ‘to cause surge in heart disease and strokes’

Sky News Diabetes epidemic set to cause surge in heart attacks and strokes

Daily Mail  Britain’s diabetes time-bomb: Rise of Type 2 will cause heart attacks and strokes to soar over the coming years with 30% increase in serious illnesses linked to the condition

The Telegraph Obesity epidemic will fuel 30 per cent rise in heart attacks in 2035

Times Diabetes means big rise in heart attacks

The Guardian Diabetes epidemic ‘will lead to rise in heart attacks and strokes’