Overweight adults
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1. Main facts and figures

2 out of 3 adults in England were classified as overweight in the period 2013 to 2015

the percentage of White adults and Black adults who were overweight in the period 2013 to 2015 was higher than the average for all adults in England

the percentage of adults in the Chinese, Mixed, Asian and Other ethnic groups who were overweight in the period 2013 to 2015 was significantly lower than the average for all adults in England
Things you need to know
The Active People Survey (APS) is a telephone survey that employs a computerassisted telephone interview. This will likely give different results than another method, such as a facetoface interview.
Because people often underestimate their weight and overestimate their height, selfreported BMIs are known to be lower than they actually are. This measure adjusts for this bias by applying a formula based on observations from several years of the Health Survey for England, which for many respondents included both selfreported and clinically measured BMIs.
The APS is a 'sample survey': it collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population.
The commentary for this data only includes reliable, or 'statistically significant', findings. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.
Specifically, the statistical tests mean that we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.
As with all surveys, the estimates from the APS survey are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for minority ethnic groups.
What the data measures
This data provides an estimate of the percentage of adults (aged 16 and older) in England who were overweight. It covers two periods, 2012 to 2014 and 2013 to 2015, and the results are broken down by ethnicity. Data broken down by ethnicity and local authority can be found in the data download.
The data source is Sport England’s Active People Survey (APS), a large telephone survey that measures participation in sport and active recreation. The APS gives details of how participation varies from place to place and between different groups in the population. As part of this survey, participants were asked their height and weight. These were then used to determine their body mass index (BMI), which will indicate if a person is overweight or obese.
BMI can be calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. Adults with a BMI of 25 or more are considered overweight, while adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. The BMI figures are then adjusted using a formula that compensates for some people misrepresenting their weight when reporting it themselves.
The data presented here is for adults who were overweight including those who were obese (hereafter referred to as overweight).
The percentage of adults who were classified as overweight is calculated by dividing the number of respondents whose adjusted BMI was 25 or higher by the number of people who answered the APS questions on weight and height.
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following broad groups:
 White
 Mixed
 Asian
 Black
 Chinese
 Other ethnicity
2. Overweight adults by ethnicity over time
Ethnicity  2012  14  2013  15 

%  %  
All  64.6  64.8 
Asian  53.6  55.1 
Chinese  39.5  40.9 
Black  66.5  67.2 
Mixed  54.3  53.9 
White  65.7  65.8 
Other  58.0  58.4 
Download table data for ‘Overweight adults by ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Overweight adults by ethnicity over time’ (CSV)
Summary of Overweight adults Overweight adults by ethnicity over time Summary

65% of adults in England were classified as overweight in the period 2013 to 2015

in the period 2013 to 2015, the percentage of adults who were overweight was 66% for White people and 67% for Black people, both higher than the average for all adults in England

in the period 2013 to 2015, the percentage of adults who were overweight was significantly lower than the average for England in the following groups: Chinese (41%), Mixed (54%), Asian (55%) and Other (58%)
3. Methodology
The data for this measure is taken from the results of Sport England’s Active People Survey (APS) in 2012 to 2015. The survey was used to measure the number of adults taking part in sport across England.
The survey was conducted by telephone, using landline numbers selected from a database of randomly generated numbers in Great Britain. Only people aged 16 or older were interviewed. Calls were made throughout the year and at different times each day. A high quality random sampling survey design ensures results are representative of the population. Results for 2015 are based on responses from a sample of approximately 170,000 people.
Data from the APS was compared with measured height and weight data from the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2009 to 2013. The HSE data from 2011 contains height and weight figures for individuals that was both selfreported and measured. (The APS was used because it is the only available relevant source of data at the local authority level. The HSE is the best source for obesity data at the national level, so it is a useful dataset for comparison.)
The data confirms that adults tend to underestimate their weight and overestimate their height when giving selfreported measurements. The amount to which this occurs can differ between population groups in a somewhat predictable way, mostly in relation to age and sex, and this can be described by mathematical formulas. These formulas have been used to adjust the selfreported height and weight measurements in the APS to estimate the likely actual height and weight of individuals. While this won’t give accurate measurements for individual respondents, at a population level they act to bring the APS data much more closely into line with the actual measures, such as those described by the HSE.
Data broken down by ethnicity and local authority is based on 3 years of combined data. This makes findings based on the smaller sample sizes more reliable than data from a single year.
Weighting
Surveys collect information from a random sample of the target population to make generalisations (reach 'findings’) about everyone within that population.
For those findings to be reliable, the sample of people should ideally contain the same mix of age, gender and regional location as the target population.
Where this isn’t the case (because some people haven’t responded, for example) analysts use statistical tools to ‘weight’ the data. Weighting rebalances the survey responses so they represent the target population more accurately. They can then be used to reach meaningful conclusions.
Confidence intervals
The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the ‘download the data’ section.
64.8% of adults surveyed reported a height and weight that when adjusted determined a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more. This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of adults in England who were overweight, but because the APS results are based on a random sample of adults aged 16 or older, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.
It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 64.7% and 64.9% of all adults in England were overweight. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall in this range (ie between the upper and lower confidence interval). But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.
The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, the number of Chinese people sampled for this survey is relatively small compared with the entire population, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty for Chinese people is expressed by the wider confidence interval of between 37.6% and 44.1%.
Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap with England value.
The Normal Approximation method for calculating confidence intervals has been used.
For further details of the sampling method, weighting and confidence intervals see the Active People Survey technical report (PDF opens in a new window or tab).
Suppression rules and disclosure control
None applied None applied
Rounding
Data is rounded to the nearest whole number in charts and tables, and to the nearest decimal point in the data downloads.
Related publications
Data on overweight and obese adults is available broken down by local authority in downloadable spreadsheets for the periods 2013 to 2015 and 2012 to 2014.
Further technical information
Further background information and supporting indicators are available from the Public Health Outcomes Framework.
4. Data sources
Source
Active People Survey, Sport England
Type of data
Survey data
Type of statistic
Official statistics
Publisher
Sport England
Publication frequency
No longer published
Purpose of data source
The survey monitored the amount of sport people play. As well as overall strategy and insight, this information underpinned performance management of the national governing bodies
Secondary source
Public Health Outcomes Framework  Active people survey
Type of data
Survey data
Type of statistic
Official statistics
Publisher
Public Health England
Publication frequency
Yearly
Purpose of data source
The Active People Survey measures participation in sport and active recreation, and provides details of how participation varies from place to place and between different groups in the population. It was carried out on behalf of Sport England by the social research company TNS BMRB.
5. Download the data
This file contains: time, ethnicity, value, upper and lower confidence intervals, sample size