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The University of Southampton

The obesity map of England

Published: 15 May 2007

New research from health geographers at the University of Southampton and the University of Portsmouth has produced estimates of how obesity and overweight vary across England.

Working in collaboration with leading market information company TNS plc, the researchers used national survey information to develop statistical models that estimate the prevalence of obesity and overweight for small areas across the country. They also show how the maps of both conditions vary according to age, sex and ethnicity.

The estimates are based on the relationships that have been found to exist between individual demographic characteristics, the socio-economic make-up of areas, and obesity.

The research, which is published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, suggests that the highest levels of obesity may be found in the urban West Midlands, while the South West may have high percentages of people who are overweight but not obese. However, other parts of the country also experience raised levels on both indicators.

Lower levels were recorded in places such as Bristol, West London, Brighton and Oxford but also in parts of Northern England.

Professor Graham Moon of the University of Southampton's School of Geography, who led the research, said: "Obesity has been highlighted as a public health problem ranking alongside smoking. It is linked to a nine-year reduction in life expectancy and some 30,000 deaths each year.

"We have produced estimates of how obesity and overweight vary across England. These estimates are based on statistical models of survey data that take account of people and place characteristics. In the absence of other information they give a consistent picture of how obesity and overweight may vary. We hope they will assist in increasing our understanding of the impact of this important public health issue."

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Notes for editors

The paper Fat nation: Deciphering the distinctive geographies of obesity in England by Graham Moon, Gemma Quarendon, Steve Barnard, Liz Twigg and Bill Blyth is published in the journal Social Science & Medicine.

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