Scottish Health Survey 2020: media statement

26 January 2021

New obesity stats show that we desperately need healthier food environment. 

New Scottish Health Survey 2020 published today indicates that the overweight and obesity problem in Scotland persists. Due to the pandemic restrictions, the survey was conducted on the telephone instead of face-to-face. This resulted in a smaller sample, fewer questions and self-reported measures, and the results are not directly comparable with the previous years. However, the findings are still nationally representative. 

Levels of self-reported adult overweight and obesity are high and very similar to previous years: 28% for obesity and 62% for overweight and obesity together. Importantly, a significant number of adults (39%) reported that their weight increased since the first lockdown began in March 2020.  

The survey also revealed that we continue to have bad diet habits. For example, as many as a third of adults reported eating sweets or chocolate every day. The same proportion of adults also reported eating biscuits every day and cakes at least 2 times a week. 

Food insecurity questions showed that overall, 8% of adults worried that they would run out of food at some time due to a lack of money or other resources, with younger adults more affected. 

Lorraine Tulloch, Obesity Action Scotland’s Programme Lead, said:

‘While this new data has limitations, it does ring alarm bells.  It gives a clear indication of what we thought might be happening, namely that a significant number of adults report putting on weight during the pandemic control measures. Unhealthy food is being consumed on a daily basis and food insecurity issues persist. This provides the case that we need a healthier food environment in Scotland now more than ever before.’