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Identifying obesity, British Social Attitudes survey

Findings from the 2015 British Social Attitudes survey present new findings on attitudes in Britain towards obesity and what might be done to reduce its prevalence. Despite appreciating some of the health risks, people tend not to recognise obesity when it does exist – and especially so in men. Obesity is frequently regarded as a problem for individuals and healthcare professionals rather than society more generally, and those who are obese are often stigmatised. There is significant support for actions aimed at reducing levels of obesity.

People tend to overestimate what obesity means in terms of body size, with 54% of those surveyed correctly identify when a woman is obese and only 39% correctly do this for a man. The 2015 survey included 40 questions about obesity, none of which had been asked before. The questions were developed through a process of questionnaire design in consultation with PHE (Public Health England) experts, together with piloting potential questions among a small sample of the general public. Some of the questions were included in the face-to-face part of the survey, while others (which might be considered more sensitive) were asked in the self-completion booklet. Interviewing took place between July and November 2015.

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