Obese people in denial over weight problem


IRISH PEOPLE are in denial about the extent to which they as individuals are overweight, according to the authors of Government-sponsored new research on obesity.

Some 61 per cent of Irish people are overweight, but only 40 per cent see themselves as such.

The research was carried out by safefood, the cross-Border agency which promotes food safety on the island of Ireland.

It involved a representative sample of 810 adults surveyed by Millward Brown Lansdowne on the island of Ireland in December.

Safefood’s director of human health and nutrition, Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, said the research showed there was a general awareness of the dangers of obesity in Ireland, but many of those at risk felt the dangers pertained to other people and not themselves.

She explained: “There is a big gap between perception and reality and that particularly relates to being overweight rather than those who are obese,” she said.

“It’s seen as someone else’s health problem or someone much heavier than you as an individual.”

The research also found that, while almost all Irish people recognised that obesity is a health problem, many did not know that simply being overweight is also bad for one’s health.

Having a waist size greater than 32 inches for a woman or 37 inches for a man is a clear indication that a person is carrying excess weight.

Safefood has been running a hard-hitting Stop the Spread campaign on television which seeks to confront those who are in denial about their weight. Only 35 per cent of people knew that waist measurement is around the belly button area, according to the report. A fifth of those surveyed had measured their waist in the six weeks before the survey was conducted.

The research also revealed that only one in four of the population (23 per cent) has told their partner that they needed to lose weight, with women more likely to do this than men.

Similarly, 27 per cent of respondents claim to have told a friend they needed to lose weight.

Dr Foley-Nolan said obesity was “unquestionably” the biggest public health issue in Ireland surpassing that of alcohol and cigarettes, particularly with the attendant problem of type 2 diabetes.

According to the National Adult Nutrition Survey earlier this year, 61 per cent of adults in the Republic of Ireland were either overweight (37 per cent) or obese (24 per cent).

The prevalence of obesity in 18- to 64-year-old adults has increased significantly since 1990 from 8 per cent to 26 per cent in men, and from 13 per cent to 21 per cent in women.