Introduction Estimates suggest that by 2020 around 40% of adults will be obese, this is likely to cause a serious rise in related morbidity and mortality and health service cost. This work examines the Health Survey for England from 1993 to 2008, to test for a recent change in the apparently inexorable rise in the prevalence of obesity.
Methods We compared these projections using methods developed for the Foresight Tackling Obesities programme for 2020 using eight years of survey data from 1993 to 2000 inclusive and compared them with projections using data from 2001 to 2008. We tested for a difference between the two projections and for a difference from the recent projections to the observed prevalence in 1993.
Results All eight groups have a lower projected rate of obesity in 2020 from the recent data than from the previous 8 years. All of these projections are well above the rate observed in 1993. Most notably children are recently becoming more obese at a slower rate while males aged 21–40 seem to have uniquely overcome their rising obesity in recent years.
Conclusion There is evidence for a flattening of obesity growth, at this stage only among the young. These data are cross sectional and inferring future cohort effects is less reliable, but obviously if the trends currently observable among the young represent lasting effects among cohort then the projections in the very long term made by Foresight may have been too pessimistic.