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Staggering 63% of Northern Ireland adults overweight or obese - survey reveals health timebomb

By Jill Goligher

The latest Northern Ireland Department of Health survey has revealed that 63% of adults are either overweight or obese.

The survey, which has run annually since 2010, includes questions relating general health, mental health and wellbeing, obesity, smoking, physical activity, medicines and planning for social care etc.

In the 2016/17 report the response rate was 59% with 3,888 individuals aged 16 and over taking part.

Statistics show that over a quarter of adults (27%) are classed as obese with a further 36% classed as overweight.

Obesity levels have shown an upward trend over the last decade, with 24% recorded in 2005/06.

Around three-quarters of children aged 2-15 were classed as normal weight or underweight, while 17% were classed as overweight and 8% classed as obese.

Fidelma Carter, Public Health Director at Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke commented: "It is worrying to see that almost two-thirds of adults in Northern Ireland are either obese or overweight.

"Being overweight is one of the main risk factors in heart disease and stroke, as well as other health conditions including certain cancers, so it really is an ill health time-bomb."

Ms Carter added: "We call on everyone in Northern Ireland, those is power and at a corporate, community and individual level, to work together to defuse it."

Prevalence of cigarette smoking has fallen to 20%, from the 22% reported in 2015/16.

This is the first drop in prevalence  since 2013/14 and represents a continuation of the general downward trend seen since the 1980s when a third of respondents smoked.

The survey also revealed 80% of the population in Northern Ireland, aged 18 and over, drink alcohol. An increase on the 2015/16 findings of 74%.

Colette Rogers, Strategic Lead for Tobacco at the Public Health Agency (PHA) said: "We, at the PHA, are delighted with the reduction in the percentage of people in Northern Ireland who smoke.

"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."

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