Time to Tackle Obesity
International comparisons indicate that Scotland has above average levels of adult overweight and obesity. Based on recent OECD figures Scotland has the second highest rate of obesity in adults in Europe, only Hungary has a higher rate.
In 2014, 31% of Scotland's children were at risk of becoming overweight (including obesity). 17% were at risk of becoming obese.
Levels of obesity and overweight have been fairly stable in recent years but some years in the past have shown significant fluctuations. There is evidence that being obese in childhood increases the risk of becoming an obese adult.
Being obese or overweight can increase the risk of developing a range of serious diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, some cancers and premature death. For example, Type 2 diabetes is almost 13 times more likely to occur in obese women than in women of normal weight. Many of the diseases that arise in association with obesity shorten life expectancy by 2 to 4 years for those with class 1 obesity (BMI 30-35) and by 8 to 10 years for those with a BMI between 40 and 50.
The Cost of Obesity
The cost to the NHS in Scotland of overweight and obesity is estimated to be anywhere between £363 million and £600 million. Average NHS costs for people with a body mass index of 40 (severe obesity) are estimated to be twice those for people with a BMI of 20 (within normal weight range).
The costs to the health service of obesity and its comorbidities may be comparable to that attributable to smoking. Healthcare expenditure is only part of the issue; there are also indirect economic costs.
The McKinsey Institute estimates that the cost to the UK is equivalent to 3% of gross domestic product.
This analysis takes into account: loss of productivity attributable to loss of life or impaired life quality, direct health care costs, and investment to mitigate the impact of obesity.
Obesity and Inequalities
Obesity in Scotland shows a strong link with inequalities. There is a need to focus on people who face the greatest and multiple challenges. Women and children in the most deprived areas are particularly affected by more extreme obesity.
Source: ScotPHN Report of the Scottish Public Health Obesity Special Interest Group: Expert Group on the Development of the Child healthy Weight Programme in Scotland (August 2014)
“Scotland has not done enough to see significant and sustained reductions in the proportion of its child population that is overweight or obese. Furthermore, what has been done has increased rather than decreased the inequality gap in obesity risk between the most affluent and the most deprived amongst Scottish children.”
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents the views of the vast majority of the UK’s 220,000 practising doctors, are united in seeing the epidemic of obesity as the greatest public health crisis facing the UK.
Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, 2013