Trends in the prevalence of obesity and overweight in English adults by age and birth cohort, 1991-2006

Public Health Nutr. 2011 Jan;14(1):27-33. doi: 10.1017/S136898001000056X. Epub 2010 Mar 26.


Objective: To describe trends in the prevalence of obesity and overweight in English adults.

Design: Analysis of nationally representative cross-sectional population surveys. Sociodemographic information was gathered by an interviewer-administered questionnaire and measurements of height and weight were used to calculate the prevalence of obesity and overweight.

Subjects: A total of 61 515 men and 69 733 women aged 16-65 years participating in the annual Health Survey for England between 1991 and 2006.

Results: When the 4-year periods 1991/94 and 2003/06 were compared, male and female obesity had risen by 8.2 % and 6.0 %, and male and female overweight had risen by 8.8 % and 7.4 %. However, the rate of increase appears to be slowing down: the increases between 1995/98 and 1999/02 were greater than those between 1999/02 and 2003/06. There was relatively little variation across the age range in the average changes in obesity or overweight prevalence between time periods, except that the increase in male obesity between periods was significantly greater for older than younger males. When the subjects were divided into 10-year pseudo birth cohorts, it was seen that the prevalence of obesity and overweight was consistently higher at a given average age for pseudo cohorts born more recently. This agreed with data from two British cohort studies.

Conclusions: Obesity and overweight continued to rise over the study period, but there are signs that the rate of increase is slowing down, even though the prevalence is consistently higher for a given age in cohorts born more recently.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Young Adult