The Impact of Income on Obesity in The UK

For a long time, obesity in the UK has been a highly discussed topic, and with good reason. The problem of obesity is growing and every year the number is higher than ever before.

Obesity comes with a number of serious health risks, and in effect, the number of recorded episodes of obesity in British hospitals as a primary or a secondary diagnosis is growing as the obesity problem is getting bigger. The latest numbers are shocking, to say the least, revealing that the recorded episodes of obesity has risen from 29,237 in 2003 to an outrageous 292,404 episodes in 2013.

Obesity is first and foremost the result of an unhealthy lifestyle and poor nutrition. It is no news that unhealthy food is much cheaper than the healthier options, making unhealthy food the obvious and sometimes necessary choice for a large number of low-income families. The connection between income and obesity is particularly evident when looking at the recorded admissions in hospital with obesity as a primary or a secondary diagnosis by region, compared to the average hourly earnings in that particular region.

The connection between hourly earnings and recorded episodes of obesity in hospitals highlights that level of income is in fact affecting health in terms of nutrition and lifestyle and thereby pinpoints a very important problem in the UK.

The UK is not the first country to experience an obvious correlation between health and income, and other countries have taken drastic measures in order to reverse the problem. Denmark, for example, has set an example by introduced high fat and sugar tolls, ensuring that unhealthy food is no longer the cheapest option and thereby urging people to choose a healthier lifestyle. The UK is yet to implement political changes to turn things around, but it’s not inconceivable that the Danish model could have a positive impact on the growing obesity problem.

Links to data:
Episodes of obesity in British hospitals by region, HSCIC
Average hourly earnings by region, ONS