UK teenagers far more overweight than previous generations

More than a third of teenagers in the UK begin their adult life already overweight or obese, disturbing new reseach has revealed. Scientists have found that one in five (21%) young people were obese at age 17, and a further one in seven (14%) were overweight. Those from poorest families are at the greatest risk, with rates of obesity twice as high among this group compared to those from the richest households, according to the report published by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the UCL Social Research Institute. Previous studies have shown that people born before 1980, who became teeangers in the mid 1990s, suffered from “much lower” levels of obesity than today’s teenagers. It comes after the annual Health Survey, published on Tuesday, revealed that one in six adults in England is likely to have an eating disorder which may be fueled by growing levels of obesity. It also found that two thirds of adults were overweight or obese, with the problem more prevalent among men (68 per cent) than women (60 per cent). The latest data on teenage obesity, which was collected between 2018-19, is based on a nationally representative group of over 10,000 people who have been taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) since they were born in 2000-02. Dr David Bann, co-author of the report, said: "Obesity rates in the UK have been a concern for decades and these high levels among 17-year-olds, affecting the disadvantaged most, suggest that previous policy initiatives haven't worked. "Without ambitious policy action, we expect this concerning trend to continue in future and have long-term health consequences. Action on obesity now will help to protect the NHS in future. Dr Bann added: "The planned closure of Public Health England leaves us with a pressing need for an independent properly funded organisation which has obesity strategy as part of its remit." His team said they found obesity rates among teenagers to be "strongly linked to household income, with those from the least well-off households the worst affected". Professor Emla Fitzsimons, of the CLS, said: "It's a major concern that so many young people are an unhealthy weight and are starting off adult life facing an increased risk of greater long-term physical and psychological health problems. "Levels of obesity among this generation are alarming, and are even more worrying given emerging evidence on links between excess weight and Covid-19.” Prof. Fitzsimons told The Telegraph: “There is little comparable data but previous studies have shown that people born before 1980 tended not to suffer so much from being overweight or obese as teenagers. There were much lower levels of obesity in previous generations." The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The authors of the annual health survey for England found warned that their data reinforces initial findings that coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on lower income families in deprived areas, where obesity is already a significant problem. Their survey found that adults living in the most deprived areas were the most likely to be obese. This was the case particularly with women, with 39 per cent of women in the most deprived areas suffering from obesity, compared with 22 per cent in the least deprived areas. Jennifer Mindell, Professor of Public Health at University College London, co-editor of the survey, said: “Obesity and diabetes both increase your risk of having severe disease if you catch coronavirus. "The fact these conditions are unequally distributed across society is one reason people living in deprived areas have a much higher risk of having severe coronavirus and dying from it.”

UK teenagers far more overweight than previous generations

More than a third of teenagers in the UK begin their adult life already overweight or obese, disturbing new reseach has revealed.

Scientists have found that one in five (21%) young people were obese at age 17, and a further one in seven (14%) were overweight.

Those from poorest families are at the greatest risk, with rates of obesity twice as high among this group compared to those from the richest households, according to the report published by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the UCL Social Research Institute.

Previous studies have shown that people born before 1980, who became teeangers in the mid 1990s, suffered from “much lower” levels of obesity than today’s teenagers.

It comes after the annual Health Survey, published on Tuesday, revealed that one in six adults in England is likely to have an eating disorder which may be fueled by growing levels of obesity. It also found that two thirds of adults were overweight or obese, with the problem more prevalent among men (68 per cent) than women (60 per cent).

The latest data on teenage obesity, which was collected between 2018-19, is based on a nationally representative group of over 10,000 people who have been taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) since they were born in 2000-02.

Dr David Bann, co-author of the report, said: "Obesity rates in the UK have been a concern for decades and these high levels among 17-year-olds, affecting the disadvantaged most, suggest that previous policy initiatives haven't worked.

"Without ambitious policy action, we expect this concerning trend to continue in future and have long-term health consequences. Action on obesity now will help to protect the NHS in future.

Dr Bann added: "The planned closure of Public Health England leaves us with a pressing need for an independent properly funded organisation which has obesity strategy as part of its remit."

His team said they found obesity rates among teenagers to be "strongly linked to household income, with those from the least well-off households the worst affected".

Professor Emla Fitzsimons, of the CLS, said: "It's a major concern that so many young people are an unhealthy weight and are starting off adult life facing an increased risk of greater long-term physical and psychological health problems.

"Levels of obesity among this generation are alarming, and are even more worrying given emerging evidence on links between excess weight and Covid-19.”

Prof. Fitzsimons told The Telegraph: “There is little comparable data but previous studies have shown that people born before 1980 tended not to suffer so much from being overweight or obese as teenagers. There were much lower levels of obesity in previous generations."

The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The authors of the annual health survey for England found warned that their data reinforces initial findings that coronavirus is having a disproportionate impact on lower income families in deprived areas, where obesity is already a significant problem.

Their survey found that adults living in the most deprived areas were the most likely to be obese. This was the case particularly with women, with 39 per cent of women in the most deprived areas suffering from obesity, compared with 22 per cent in the least deprived areas.

Jennifer Mindell, Professor of Public Health at University College London, co-editor of the survey, said: “Obesity and diabetes both increase your risk of having severe disease if you catch coronavirus.

"The fact these conditions are unequally distributed across society is one reason people living in deprived areas have a much higher risk of having severe coronavirus and dying from it.”