British Heart Foundation responds to latest Health Survey for England figures on childhood obesity

4 December 2018        

Category: BHF Comment

The latest Health Survey for England published by NHS Digital has shown that there is a correlation between childhood obesity and their parents’ weight.


The Health Survey for England 2017 monitored trends in the nation’s health and surveyed 8,000 adults and 2,000 children about a variety of topics including obesity, smoking, and drinking.

According to the survey, 36% of children who have an overweight or obese mother were also obese or overweight. This is compared to just 19% of children whose mother was not obese or overweight. Meanwhile, 32% of children with an obese or overweight father were also obese compared to 17% of children whose father was not overweight or obese.

Obesity can lead to a number of health problems, such as raised cholesterol levels, increased blood pressure and enhancing the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes. All of these are risk factors for coronary disease.

Maintaining a healthy diet and regular physical activity can help to curb obesity and uphold a healthy weight.

Other findings in the survey are also a cause for concern. The survey also found that the proportion of adults reporting doctor-diagnosed diabetes increased between 1994 and 2017, with some year-on-year fluctuation, from 3% to 8% among men and from 2% to 5% among women. The percentage increase has been largest for those aged 65 to 74, increasing from 5% in 1994 to 15% in 2017.  Diabetes is a major risk factor in developing heart and circulatory diseases.

Commenting on the survey’s findings on childhood obesity, John Maingay, Director of Policy & Public Affairs at the British Heart Foundation said:

“These alarming figures suggest we could be storing up a future of health problems for future generations unless we act now. Obese children are more likely to be obese adults and this, coupled with spiralling diabetes rates, could lead to thousands more people suffering heart attacks and strokes in the coming years.

“The Government’s Childhood Obesity Plan is taking us in the right direction but, as these latest figures tell us, there is a huge amount of work to be done to ensure children of obese parents are supported in making healthier decisions. This can be achieved through tighter regulation of sugar and fat content in food, and by developing stricter regulations in marketing and promoting unhealthy food to children. Action needs to be taken today to curb obesity, or it will present a formidable challenge to the NHS for years to come.”

find out more about obesity and heart health


This article was updated on 5 December 2018 to clarify some of the statistics.