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Number of people with obesity almost doubles in 20 years


The number of people who are obese in England has almost doubled in the last 20 years from 6.9 to 13 million, according to new analysis we are releasing today.

The figures from the Health Survey for England (1997-2017)* estimate that there are now 13 million people over the age of 16 with a BMI of 30 or above which classifies as obese, an increase of more than 6 million since 1997. 

Obesity is main driver for increase in type 2

In England 29% of adults and 20% of 10 to 11 year olds are living with obesity and, although it’s not the only factor, obesity is the most significant risk factor for new cases of type 2 diabetes, accounting for 80 to 85% of someone’s risk. 

It’s the main driver behind the leap in type 2 diabetes cases over the last 20 years. There are an estimated 2.85 million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in England, and more than 850,000 living with the condition who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed − bringing the total number up to 3.7 million. 

Obesity is contributing to the increase in gestational diabetes and the worrying rise in young people with type 2 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes is serious because it can lead to devastating and life-limiting complications. People with the condition are two and half times more likely to have a heart attack, and four times more likely to experience kidney failure than those without it. 

We want action

More than half of all cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed, and in turn the risk of developing the related complications, by tackling being overweight and obesity. We are therefore calling for sustained government and industry action on health and obesity. 

Chris Askew, our Chief Executive, said: 

“Through our new strategy we’re restating our commitment to tackling the diabetes crisis on all fronts.

“We’re facing an urgent public health problem. Tackling this requires ambitious and sustained action from national governments, across sectors and departments. That’s because, right now, it’s hard to be healthy. 

“We will keep challenging government and industry to put in place regulations and practices that make healthy choices easier for everyone, including making food and drinks healthier, and addressing the marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods.

“Without action, more people will develop type 2 and gestational diabetes – but with more awareness, government action and the right investment and support, we can change this.” 

Our new strategy

Reducing the number of people developing type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes is one of five key goals for our ambitious new strategy, which we're launching today to mark World Diabetes Day 2019

By 2025, this is what we want to achieve.

  • More people with type 1, type 2 and all other forms of diabetes will benefit from new treatments that cure or prevent the condition. 
  • More people will be in remission from type 2 diabetes. 
  • More people will get the quality of care they need to manage their diabetes well. 
  • Fewer people will get type 2 and gestational diabetes. 
  • More people will live better and more confident lives with diabetes, free from discrimination.

Get involved

Get involved with World Diabetes Day 2019

Download our new strategy (PDF, 4.2MB)

*The estimate of number of adults over 16 living with obesity in England has been calculated by using the rate of obesity from the Health Survey England applied to the population estimates from the ONS 

 16+ ONS pop estimateHSE Obese %Number of people in England obese




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