The U.K., the World, and Money

Last fall, the people of the United Kingdom learned an unpleasant fact. As determined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, their country (actually made up of four countries — England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) is the most obese in Western Europe.

And then, delivering the second part of a one-two punch, the Centre for Longitudinal Studies chimed in with a report on 10,000 teenagers from the substantial Millennium Cohort Study. According to it, more than one-third of the United Kingdom’s teens are either overweight (15%) or obese (20%). To put it another way, that’s one out of five teenagers in the obese classification.

In May, a headline in the rather disreputable and very popular Daily Mail seemed to take delight in announcing, “Bigger than the US: More 11-year-olds in England are now obese than in the United States.” But never fear, Americans. The Mail is quick to assure readers that, of the 34 nations included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, the U.S. is still the most obese.

Liverpool University professor Simon Capewell said for the record,

Our worst fears have come to pass. We have completely adopted the American lifestyle with the inevitable consequences. The government needs to stand up for our children… This is a preventable catastrophe.

The National Health Service reports hospital admissions to treat obesity or complications have risen by 18% in a single year:

There were 617,000 obesity-related admissions in total in England, of which 10,705 were directly for obesity treatment such as bariatric surgery. The most common problem caused or worsened by obesity was wear and tear of the knee joints, followed by the admission of women where the pregnancy had become risky because of weight.

Publicly-funded emergency services perform deeply humanitarian actions that make for great video, but are rough on the budget. Worcester News took an in-depth look at what just one county spent on moving obese patients last year. Ambulances and fire trucks are costly transportation options. Christian Barnett reported:

Firefighters often need lifting equipment and special slings to transport people, and sometimes remove windows, walls and banisters. Almost two thirds of callouts required more than an hour to move the person with between 10 and 19 staff required on four occasions.

All this news came with a footnote: by 2025 (which is only 7 years in the future) the U.K. government will be paying the equivalent of $31 billion USD per year to treat obesity and its many expensive co-morbidities.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “UK is most obese country in western Europe, OECD finds,”, 11/11/17
Source: “‘Childhood obesity crisis’ hits UK with more than a third of teenagers overweight,”,uk, 12/07/17
Source: “Bigger than the US: More 11-year-olds in England are now obese than in the United States,”, 05/21/18
Source: “Obesity putting strain on NHS as weight-related admissions rise,”, 04/04/18
Source: “£19,000 spent on moving obese people,”, 06/19/18
Photo credit: HowardLake on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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