A news study has classified obese people into 6 distinct categories, which has led scientists to call for bespoke treatment rather than a “one size fits all” approach to tackling the epidemic. Obesity is currently costing the National Health Service more than £6 billion a year.
Researchers have identified the groups as heavy drinking males, young healthy females, the affluent and healthy elderly, the physically sick but happy elderly, the unhappy and anxious middle-aged, and those with the poorest health.
Scientists from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research analysed data from the Yorkshire Health Study of 4,144 obese individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above.
The categories of obesity identified by the study
1 Heavy drinking males
This group were less likely to be managing their weight, although they did report above average levels of physical exercise and walking.
2 Young healthy females
The study found the largest cluster was “younger healthy females”, which was also the youngest group. They displayed the most positive health characteristics of all the clusters and engaged in some healthy behaviours.
3 The affluent and healthy elderly
The “affluent healthy elderly” was the least deprived cluster and had positive health characteristics (although included a large proportion with high blood pressure) and above average alcohol consumption.
4 The physically sick but happy elderly
The “physically sick but happy elderly” group had a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions (including osteoarthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure) but exhibited low levels of anxiety and depression.
The “unhappy anxious middle-aged” group was primarily female, had poor mental health and reported high levels of insomnia, anxiety, depression and fatigue.
Their sense of well-being was relatively low, but they did engage in healthy physical activity and weight management, and had the lowest alcohol consumption.
6 Those with the poorest health
The final group, made up of those with the “poorest health”, was the most deprived, had the highest prevalence of most chronic health conditions, and tended not to engage in healthy behaviours. It also had the highest mean BMI.
The report concluded that interventions by clinicians and policy makers should not target obese people “as a whole”, but rather should strategies should be tailored to suit the categories that individuals belong to.
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