Almost four in 10 (36%) UK adults could be obese by 2040, analysis suggests, which would put them at a heightened risk of developing conditions that could prevent them from working.
Cancer Research UK finds that if current overweight and obesity trends continue, the proportion of adults classified as overweight or obese will rise to 71% in 2040, up from 64% in 2019.
The Overweight and obesity prevalence projections report, which analyses data derived from national health surveys, warns that the number of people who are obese could overtake the number who are a healthy weight in the UK by 2040.
Currently, the UK’s overweight and obesity prevalence is among the highest in Europe, with around six in 10 adults falling into the overweight or obese categories. The overweight prevalence rate seems to have plateaued, but obesity continues to climb, warned the charity.
Severe obesity in particular can lead to serious health complications and heightens the risk of a person developing conditions that may affect their ability to work, including type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease.
Obesity also increases the risk of at least 13 different types of cancer and about 22,800 cancer diagnoses per year in the UK are linked to weight.
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “These projections should serve as a wake-up call to the government about the state of our nation’s health. Ministers mustn’t keep kicking the can down the road when it comes to tackling the obesity crisis – delaying measures that will lead to healthier food options.
“I urge them to revisit this decision [to delay restrictions on junk food marketing and volume-based price promotions] and take bold action on obesity, the second biggest preventable risk factor for cancer in the UK.”
The report also warns that people who live in areas experiencing higher levels of deprivation were the most likely to fall into the obese category.
In England in 2019, 35% of people living in the most deprived areas were obese. This is estimated to increase to almost half (46%) by 2040.
In comparison, 22% of people living in the least deprived areas were obese in 2019 and this is estimated to increase to 25%.
Dr Julie Sharp, head of health and patient information at the charity, said: “Obesity is a complex issue and the world around us can make it very difficult to keep a healthy weight.
“Government action is key in making sure that the healthy option is readily available and affordable for people and addressing the wider barriers that prevent people from living healthy lives. If these staggering trends continue, obesity will eclipse smoking as the biggest cause of cancer.”