Stark new figures from the Obesity Health Alliance, released on World Obesity Day, show a looming significant weight gap between the poorest and wealthiest primary-school aged boys living in England. Three in five (60%) of the most deprived boys aged 5-11 are predicted to be overweight or obese by 2020, compared to about one in six (16%) of boys in the most affluent group [1].

The most deprived girls didn’t however show the same trend, and are projected to have similar obese and overweight prevalence rates to their more affluent counterparts with an average of 1 in 5 girls predicted to be obese or overweight by 2020.

Eating or drinking too much sugar is a key reason for consuming extra calories and therefore a cause of obesity. Sugar currently makes up 13% of children’s daily calorie intake, while the official recommendation is no more than 5% [2]. This is why the Obesity Health Alliance fully supports the Government’s Soft Drinks Industry Levy, which is an important step to help make our children healthier. The alliance is also calling on food manufacturers to comply with the Government’s programme to reduce the sugar in food eaten often by children and wants to see loopholes closed to protect children from exposure to junk food marketing online and on TV.

Robin Ireland, Chief Executive at Health Equalities Group and member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “These stats also illustrate an obvious gender gap with boys, especially those from the most deprived areas, much more likely to be obese. Whilst it is difficult to comment on exactly why this happens, there could be a number of reasons including girls usually being more conscious about their physical appearance, and boys being more brand loyal and therefore susceptible to the billions of pounds spent on marketing to children through brand characters and sports stars. Either way, this area needs a lot more attention.”

“From a young age, children are developing a taste for high sugar, salt and fatty foods that is difficult to break once established and as a nation, we all have a responsibility to help shape children’s diets.

“Sugary drink consumption levels tend to be highest among the most disadvantaged children who are hit hardest by obesity and tooth decay. The health gains from the soft drinks industry levy will be biggest for our most deprived children.”

Obese children are around five times more likely to become obese adults, and obese adults are more likely to develop serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, liver and cardiovascular disease, and associated mental health problems [3] which all have a devastating impact on millions of lives.

Chris Askew, Chief Executive at diabetes UK, said: “Obesity is a major risk factor in developing Type 2 diabetes, and Type 2 accounts for 9 out of 10 diabetes cases. Treating diabetes and its complications already costs the health service £10 billion a year and the rising cost is placing huge pressure on the NHS.

“Not taking action now will result in the NHS forking out monumental amounts of money for largely preventable conditions. This is why it’s so important to implement the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, manufacture healthier food, and close the loopholes of junk food marketing to children today, so our future health, workforce, and NHS can stand a chance tomorrow.”


Weight predictions for 5-11 year old boys in least and most deprived groups in England

  Actual data Modelled data
2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Least deprived (IMD Q1)                
Overweight 13% 13% 13% 12% 12% 11% 11% 10%
Obesity 11% 10% 9% 9% 8% 7% 7% 6%
Healthy Weight 76% 77% 78% 79% 80% 81% 82% 83%
Most deprived (IMD Q5)                
Overweight 14% 15% 15% 16% 16% 17% 17% 17%
Obesity 27% 29% 31% 34% 36% 38% 41% 43%
Healthy Weight 59% 56% 53% 51% 48% 45% 42% 40%



Further information:

This modelling was done by UK Health Forum.

[1] The analysis used existing figures of the number of children aged 5-11 who are obese, overweight and a healthy weight, categorised by level of deprivation, and modelled future trends. The data used were on childhood obesity prevalence from 2008 to 2014 taken from the Health Survey for England.   These data were categorised by the factor, Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD). IMD has five levels, with level 1 being least deprived and level 5 being most deprived.

Projections were made on these data using the calibration measure of uk90 data. The projections were made for the ages of 5-11, with a start year of 2008 and stop year of 2020.

Data Manipulation

  • For IMDQ2, year 2009 data was removed
  • The remaining quintiles had their data unaltered

[2] National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 5-6 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2012/13 — 2013/14)

[3] Simmonds, M., et al. (2016). ‘Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis’. Obesity reviews: an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity’. 17(2): 95-107.


[4] IMD is the Index of Multiple Deprivation set out by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

[5] After working out the mean, overall, 36% of the most deprived children are predicted to be overweight or obese compared to just 19% of the most affluent.