Obesity Crisis: Is the Government Doing Enough?

As the Government announces a raft of initiatives designed to tackle the ever-worsening obesity crisis, the question of whether it is doing enough to combat the condition is once again under the spotlight.

Whatever the contributory factors, we cannot ignore the seriousness of this obesity crisis and the growing concern it poses to the population. Nineteen million UK adults (one in four) currently live with obesity, and more worryingly 9.5% of four to five-year-olds, and 20.1% of 10 to 11-year-olds, in England are also obese.

Comorbidities are one of the most serious concerns associated with obesity. In the UK alone, one in 20 cancers is caused by excess weight, with around 200 other diseases linked to being obese.

 

42% of people with obesity feel uncomfortable speaking to their GP about their condition.

 

Another impact of obesity is the effect it can have on a person’s mental health. Weight-related issues increase the likelihood of developing mental health issues, with those living with obesity 55% more likely to experience depression, and conversely, adults diagnosed with depression are 58% more at risk of developing obesity.

The general perception and misinformation surrounding obesity only further perpetuates the debilitating stigmas surrounding the disease, with 66% of the general public believing obesity is a lifestyle choice, and nearly two in five adults believing people with obesity are lazy, greedy, or both.

 

25% of people view people with obesity as being selfish and lacking in self-control.

 

This assumption can result in feelings of stigmatisation, with nearly two-thirds of people living with obesity facing discrimination on a daily basis, and 85% of those individuals having experienced knock-on effects to their mental health.

The links between obesity and Covid-19 have moved the discussion up the Government’s agenda, with recent moves seeing a:

– Ban on pre-9pm junk food advertisements online and on TV

– Halt on in-store buy-one-get-one-free promotions for unhealthy food

– Restriction on the placement and promotion of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) food in shops, including a ban on these items being displayed at checkout points

– Calorie count needing to be applied to all meals and menus in eateries with over 250 employees.

But this does nothing to address the main contributory factors around obesity.

 

Nor do these moves do anything to address the media’s portrayal of those living with obesity and the perpetuating cycle of stigma and mental health effects that this can have.

Obesity is a complex and multifaceted disease, and the government needs to do more to address the issues and education surrounding it, including expanding the accessibility and availability of weight management services to everyone in the UK.

Onhealth strongly supports calls from Obesity UK asking the government to reconsider their obesity strategy, including further access to effective treatment options, improvements to legislation to prevent weight stigma and discrimination, and their request for a public awareness campaign to highlight the complexities of obesity.