Overweight adults

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • in the year to November 2019, 62.3% of adults (people aged 18 and over) were overweight or obese, a similar percentage to the previous year (62.0%)
  • Black adults were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be overweight or obese
  • White British adults were also more likely than average to be overweight or obese
  • adults from the Chinese ethnic group were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to be overweight or obese
  • the percentage of adults in the Asian, White Other, Mixed and Other ethnic groups who were overweight or obese was lower than the national average
  • the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese was similar to the year ending November 2016 in every ethnic group except White British, which saw an increase
  • any apparent increases or decreases in other ethnic groups aren’t meaningful because of the smaller number of people surveyed
Things you need to know

The data comes from the Active Lives Survey. The survey is completed online, and is likely to show different results to other methods, such as face-to-face interviews.

People often underestimate their weight and overestimate their height. This means their self-reported body mass index (BMI) is known to be lower than it actually is. The data adjusts for this bias by using a formula based on observations from several years of the Health Survey for England which included both self-reported and clinically measured BMI figures.

16 and 17 year olds have been removed from this analysis to be consistent with the NHS healthy weight calculator.

People whose ethnicity wasn’t known are included in the ‘All’ group and are not shown separately in the charts and tables.

What the data measures

The data gives an estimate of the percentage of adults (people aged 18 and older) in England who were overweight or obese, shown by ethnicity.

Survey respondents were asked for their height and weight. These figures were used to determine their BMI, which indicates if a person is overweight or obese. Adults with a BMI of 25 or more are classed as overweight, while adults with a BMI of 30 or more are classed as obese.

The BMI figures are then adjusted using a formula that compensates for some people misrepresenting their weight when reporting it themselves.

The ethnic categories used in this data

The data has been grouped into 7 aggregated ethnic categories:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Chinese
  • Mixed
  • White British
  • White Other
  • Other ethnicity

2. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of adults who were overweight or obese, by ethnicity over time
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19
Ethnicity 2015/16 % 2015/16 Number of respondents 2016/17 % 2016/17 Number of respondents 2017/18 % 2017/18 Number of respondents 2018/19 % 2018/19 Number of respondents
All 61.3 170,273 61.3 166,213 62.0 151,677 62.3 152,979
Asian 57.9 6,018 56.3 6,142 57.0 4,890 56.2 5,254
Black 72.8 1,998 69.0 1,987 72.8 1,654 73.6 1,634
Chinese 36.0 857 31.5 873 34.5 741 35.3 799
Mixed 54.6 1,529 57.3 1,616 58.5 1,568 57.0 1,654
White British 62.0 146,869 62.3 142,038 62.9 129,957 63.3 131,104
White other 57.0 8,610 57.6 8,678 57.8 8,340 58.1 8,262
Other 58.5 1,191 59.5 1,084 58.3 972 52.6 1,018

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Overweight adults By ethnicity over time Summary

The data shows that:

  • in the 12 months to November 2019, 62.3% of adults (people aged 18 and over) in England were overweight or obese
  • 73.6% of Black adults were overweight or obese, the highest percentage out of all ethnic groups
  • White British adults were more likely than average to be overweight or obese (63.3%)
  • 35.3% of adults from the Chinese ethnic group were overweight or obese, the lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups
  • the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese was lower than the national average in the Asian (56.2%), Other White (58.1%) Other (52.6%) and Mixed (57.0%) ethnic groups
  • percentages were broadly similar to those from the year ending November 2016 for all ethnic groups except White British, where it increased from 62.0% to 63.3%
  • any apparent increases or decreases in other ethnic groups aren’t meaningful because of the smaller number of people surveyed

3. Methodology

The survey sample is randomly selected from the Royal Mail’s Postal Address File, which has a very high coverage of private residential addresses. A letter is sent to households inviting up to 2 people per household to take part in the survey, either online or by requesting a paper version of the questionnaire.

A random sampling survey design ensures results are representative of the population.

Weighting:

Data has been weighted to ONS population measures for geography and key demographics. Read more about how weighting is used to make survey results more representative.

Confidence intervals:

Download the data to see confidence intervals for the estimates on this page. You can read more about how confidence intervals are used to judge the reliability of survey data.

For further details of the sampling method, weighting and confidence intervals see the Active Lives Survey technical report.

Rounding

Data is rounded to 1 decimal point in charts and tables, and unrounded in the data download.

Quality and methodology information

4. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Sport England

Publication frequency

Twice a year

Purpose of data source

The Active Lives Survey measures the number of people aged 16 and over who take part in sport and physical activity.

This data informs the government’s strategy on physical activity, Sporting Future, which looks at 5 aspects of physical activity:

  • physical well-being
  • mental well-being
  • individual development
  • social and community development
  • economic development

Secondary source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Public Health England

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Public Health Outcomes Framework examines indicators that help government, health researchers and practitioners, understand trends in public health.

5. Download the data

Overweight Adults - Spreadsheet (csv) 7 KB

This file contains the following variables: Measure, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_Type, Time, Time_Type, Geography, Geography_Type, Geography_Code, Gender, Age, Value, Value_Type, Denominator, Confidence intervals