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Most Northern Ireland adults obese or overweight

BY EAMON SWEENEY

More than a quarter of adults in Northern Ireland are now classed as obese.

Obesity levels have increased over the last decade - rising from 24% recorded in 2005/06 to 27% in 2016/17.

A further 36% are overweight, a survey by the Department of Health reveals.

Its Health Survey NI looks at trends in general health among the population here for the 12 months to April.

The survey has been conducted each year since 2010 and covers issues such as mental health and well-being, loneliness, social support, obesity, smoking and physical activity.

While obesity among adults is rising, there has been little change in child obesity in the last decade.

Some 17% of children aged between two and 15 were classed as overweight, while 8% were classed as obese. But three-quarters of children were either normal weight or underweight.

Other key findings from the survey include:

• The percentage of smokers (22%) dropped by 2% to 20% since last year - the first fall in number since 2014/2015;

• Some 80% of over-18s said they drank alcohol - an increase from 74% in 2015/2016;

• Over half (55%) reported meeting official recommendations on physical activity, broadly similar to previous surveys;

• Females continue to be more likely to meet the 5 a day guidelines (47%) than males (37%), however they remain less likely to meet the physical activity recommendations (females 51% and males 61%).

• And 73% described their health as good or very good, an increase from the 70% reported the previous year.

Findings from the survey were taken from a sample of almost 4,000 people aged 16 and over.

The drop in smokers continues the overall downward trend since the 1980s.

Further analysis of the figures shows that those in deprived areas are three times more likely to smoke than those in affluent areas.

However, according to a leading charity, the number of smokers is still too high.

Margaret Carr, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Northern Ireland, said: "This report tells us that too many people in Northern Ireland are still smoking.

"Smoking is a deadly habit that causes at least 14 different types of cancer and it is crucial that people are given help to quit. It is a long time since the Northern Ireland Department of Health has outlined its plans to tackle smoking - its tobacco strategy was last updated five years ago.

"Urgent action is needed, including investment in stop smoking services as well as in public health campaigns."

Colette Rogers from the Public Health Agency said: "Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness, premature death and health inequality throughout Northern Ireland and sadly one in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease, so it is very encouraging to see that more people every year are successfully quitting."

The report also shows that people living in urban and the most deprived areas are more likely to show signs of loneliness than those in rural areas.

One in six respondents (17%) indicated they may have a mental health problem, in keeping with previous survey findings.

Elsewhere, 83% of people surveyed knew that antibiotics are not effective on flus or colds.

A similar figure (85%) were aware that antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections and that taking one unnecessarily can mean becoming resistant to them in the future.

Belfast Telegraph

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