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UK has highest rates of obesity for 15- to 19-year-olds among 14 European countries

A report by the Nuffield Trust and the Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH) shows that young people aged between 10 and 24 in the UK now experience worse health and wellbeing outcomes than those in many other similar countries.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Obesity is more prevalent among older adolescents in this country than in almost any other high-income nation, and the differences between the richest and poorest in this respect are stark.
  • Social and economic circumstances have a profound impact on health, and young people are bearing the brunt of this: the poverty rate among young people is now higher than in any other age group.
  • 10- to 24-year-olds in the UK today are making better choices regarding their health than ever, but the services we are providing to support them are failing to deliver at the standards found in similar countries.
  • The UK has the highest rates of obesity for 15- to 19-year-olds among 14 European comparator countries. We are second only to Finland in having the largest disparity in obesity prevalence between the richest and poorest.

Rob Percival, Head of Policy (Food and Health) said, “This report suggests we still have a long way to go before we turn the tide on childhood obesity. British teenagers aged 15 to 19 have the highest rates of obesity in Europe, and the fifth highest in the developed world. Why then are we still waiting for the government to implement its Obesity Plan? Where is the Healthy Rating Scheme for schools promised 3 years ago? Will the government commit to a robust Healthy Rating Scheme, backed by Ofsted inspections, that is mandatory for all schools, primary and secondary?

“School food is hugely important, but there is also a bigger issue to tackle. UK families consume the most ultra-processed diet in Europe. 51% of family food purchases are ultra-processed in the UK, compared to 14% in France and 13% in Italy. Research suggests that huge health benefits would result from reorienting diets around a varied balance of fresh and minimally processed foods. Fresh ingredients should be affordable and accessible for all families. The government has been promising a National Food Strategy for some time now. We hope this will include a clear message at its heart: a healthy diet should be based on real food.”

Read the report in full here