The number of people admitted to hospital because of their obesity has more than tripled in five years, according to the latest official NHS figures.
The scale of the obesity crisis is clear from the latest data from the NHS Information Centre, which shows that almost all the indicators for the future of the crisis are still pointing the wrong way.
In 2011-12, there were 11,736 cases of people being admitted for hospital treatment because of obesity – although some of them may have been admitted more than once. That is more than 11 times higher than the 1,019 cases in 2001-02 and more than three times higher than the 3,862 in 2006-07. In almost every year, more than twice as many women were admitted as men. The highest rate of admissions was in the north-east (56 per 100,000 population) and the lowest was in the east of England (12 per 100,000).
The data shows that 65% of men are now overweight or obese, compared with 58% in 1993. The figures for women have risen from 49% to 58% in the same period. Adult obesity – defined as having a body mass index (BMI) over 30 – has risen steeply, from 13% of men in 1993 to 24% in 2011 and from 16% to 26% in women.
Almost a third of children aged 2-15 were overweight or obese in 2011 – 31% of boys and 28% of girls – but that is little changed on the previous year, and there have been suggestions that the rise is levelling off. Measurements at primary school show that 9.5% of children arriving in reception class are obese. By the time they leave, 19.2% are obese.
The vast majority of adults in England still do not take enough exercise, the data showed. In 2011-12, 36% of adults – 41% of men and 31% of women – took part in some sort of moderate-intensity sporting activity at least once a week for 30 minutes.
Only 43% of children aged 5-16 walk to school and only 2% cycle. A third are driven to school in a car or van. Over three-quarters of children (77%) played competitive sport in school in the last 12 months but only 37% did so outside it.
Amy Thompson, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: “These figures hold a mirror to the state of the country’s health – and it is not a flattering reflection. The number of people who are overweight or obese is steadily climbing and unhealthy lifestyle choices are helping us along this path. After our Olympic year, it is a sad fact that only a third of us manage 30 minutes of physical activity once a week, when we should all be aiming for 150 minutes every week to keep our hearts healthy.”
Only 24% of men and 29% of women ate the recommended five helpings a day of fruit and vegetables in 2011 and the figures dropped among girls aged 5-15 to 20% and among boys the same age to just 16%.
Household purchases of fresh and processed fruit have dropped by 4.1% since 2008, fresh and processed vegetables are down by 2.4% and “fresh green vegetables” are down by 6.6%.
Diane Abbott, shadow public health minister, said government was not doing enough. “I think it’s time that action was taken on huge ‘drink-it-now’ cinema soft drinks, and also the explosion of junk food vending machines in schools,” she said.
“Action on obesity needs to include local authorities using their powers to control the numbers of fast-food shops, particularly around schools. We must also see much more work to maintain nutritional standards, and to educate young people about nutrition and cooking basic foods. Parents also need support and information.
“Campaigners like Jamie Oliver have said this government is a disaster for children’s health. But it’s made worse because we’re seeing a nutritional recession, with rising food prices and shrinking incomes driving up consumption of fatty foods and reducing the amount of fruit and vegetables we buy.'”