Most Britons are not projected to be obese by 2040

20 May 2022
What was claimed

“Most” Britons will have “lost obesity battle” in 20 years’ time.

Our verdict

Around 36% of Britons aged 16+ are projected to be obese or severely obese by 2040.

"Most Britons will have lost obesity battle in 20 years."

A headline in the Daily Express on 19 May, also published online, claims that most Britons will have “lost obesity battle” in 20 years. While the wording isn’t entirely clear, if this means that the majority of Britons will be obese in 20 years time, that is not an accurate summary of the data covered by the story.

The Cancer Research UK report on which the story is based does project an increase in obesity—but it actually forecasts that 36% of Britons aged 16+ will be obese or severely obese by 2040.

What does the report say?

The report projects that within the next decade, the number of adults (16+) in the UK defined as obese or severely obese—that is, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) above 30—will outnumber those with a healthy BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9.

However, that doesn’t mean that “most Britons” will be obese in 20 years. The proportion of adults in the UK projected to be obese or severely obese by 2040 is still less than proportion projected not to be, which includes those overweight, of a healthy weight or underweight.

In 2019, 28% of people in the UK were defined as obese or severely obese, so these figures do still project a significant increase in obesity levels in the UK over the next 20 years. 

While it’s true that the report projects that most adults in the UK (70.6%) will be either overweight, obese or severely obese in 2040, that is in fact already the case, with a total of 64.3% of UK adults in those categories in 2019.

Image courtesy of Kenny Eliason.

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