Last updated 17 January 2018 - see all updates
There is a new version of this page. View the latest version.
1. Main facts and figures
between 2013 and 2015, 2 out of 3 adults in England were classified as overweight
in the same period, the percentage of White adults and Black adults who were overweight 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 this period was significantly lower than the average for all adults in England
The ethnic categories used in this data
For this data, the number of people from specific ethnic categories surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 broad groups:
- Other ethnicity
2. Overweight adults by ethnicity over time
|Ethnicity||2012 to 2014||2013 to 2015|
Summary of Overweight adults Overweight adults by ethnicity over time Summary
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 England, Wales and Scotland. 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 self-reported 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 self-reported 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 self-reported 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.
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.
The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in Download the data.
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
Data is rounded to the nearest whole number in charts and tables, and to the nearest decimal point in the data downloads.
Further technical information
Further background information and supporting indicators are available from the Public Health Outcomes Framework.
4. Data sources
Type of data
Type of statistic
Public Health England
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.
Type of data
Type of statistic
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
5. Download the data
This file contains: time, ethnicity, value, upper and lower confidence intervals, sample size