49% of people in Munster classify themselves as “overweight” – 2% above the national average
A new survey commissioned by leading protection specialist Royal London, has revealed that 43% of people in Munster classify themselves as ‘overweight’ while a further 6% consider themselves to be ‘obese’ – slightly above the national average of 42% and 5% respectively. The results are from a Royal London study, conducted by iReach, which asked 1,000 respondents around the country how they would describe their weight and health.
Speaking about the findings, Tadhg Malone of Royal London in Tipperary said,
“It may be hard to believe that nearly half of those surveyed described themselves as either ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ given the upward trend in healthy lifestyles in Ireland. However, when compared with recent official data from the 2017 Healthy Ireland Survey1 which stated that 62% of the Irish population are now either overweight or obese, it would indicate a level of understatement by our survey respondents.
Whether or not a person is aware of their weight classification, there’s no denying that being overweight or obese has an impact on their wellness and could be putting their overall health at risk. People classed as obese are at a significantly higher risk of suffering from many chronic diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, Type 2 diabetes, mental ill-health and respiratory problems2. Looking at the current obesity statistics, it’s likely that Ireland will face a dramatic increase in chronic diseases like these in the future. In addition to the direct effects on the individual involved, this issue has wider socio-economic implications, such as a reduction of overall national quality of life and productivity, along with a strain on health services, which reportedly cost economies millions every year.”
Research published in the Safefood3 report in 2017 put the estimated costs attributed to childhood overweight and obesity at €4.6 billion in the Republic of Ireland. This study took into account direct healthcare costs, as well as indirect costs due to absenteeism and premature mortality.
Less than half (48%) of the Royal London survey respondents described their weight as being ‘normal’. A similar amount of those surveyed, 52%, described their health as ‘averagely healthy’.
The Gender Perception
The Royal London survey found that, in general, men had a more positive view of their weight and health than women:
- 46% of females described themselves as ‘overweight’ compared with 39% of males.
- More men (68%) than women (63%) described themselves as ‘very or averagely healthy’.
- Of the 4% overall that described their health as ‘very unhealthy’, there were twice as many females (6%) as males (3%).
Mr. Malone commented on these findings saying,
“Despite knowing the links between weight and our health, we know from our own policyholder data insights that people have a tendency to underestimate their own weight. This could be down to weight fluctuations, which happen for a variety of reasons, or in reference to a previous or aspirational weight. It would appear from these results that, although the differences aren’t staggering, women may generally take a more negative view of their weight and health than their male counterparts. It’s possible that females have a more accurate valuation of their weight from weighing themselves more frequently.”
Over 50’s, Overweight
According to a report published by TILDA4 79% of Irish adults over 50 are overweight, 36% being obese, based on their body max index (BMI) measurements. The Royal London study’s results were more conservative and found 59% of those 55 and over classified themselves as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’.
Mr. Malone said,
“Divulging information about one’s health and weight can be sensitive for some people. Research like ours does have an element of subjectivity, as two people can have different ideas of what being ’very healthy’ looks like, along with a dependence that those being surveyed are self-reporting correctly. Factors like these could account for some of the difference between the study figures, however both results clearly show high levels of obesity in more than half of people in their 50’s and over. As you get older you tend to put on weight more easily due to a range of factors including hormonal changes and a reduction in muscle mass. This is particularly worrying as this cohort will be more prone to suffer from age-related illness and frailty over time, which will not be helped by being overweight. Ultimately, living an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to an increased risk of a serious illness and or premature death.”
Further findings from the Royal London survey:
Approximately 45% of respondents aged 35-54, and 34% of 18-34-year olds described themselves as ‘overweight’, with 6% and 2% of those cohorts respectively classing themselves as ‘obese’.
People aged 18-34 had a more positive attitude towards their weight, with a relatively high number of respondents in this age category seeing themselves as a normal weight (54%), although 10% classified themselves as underweight, the highest percentage of this description across all age groups.
1 in 5 of those aged 18-34 consider themselves ‘very healthy’.
30% of people classified themselves as ‘a little unhealthy’ – this was higher, at 34%, in respect of those in the 35-44 age group.
Mr. Malone concluded,
“Our health should always be a priority; we all know the saying ‘your health is your wealth’. Our advice on how to get started is to know your weight, understand your BMI and take steps to keep it within the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines on maintaining a healthy body weight. It goes without saying, illnesses can occur in the healthiest of people too, which is where life and specified serious illness insurance can play a big role in providing financial peace of mind. Life cover is one of the few insurance products tailored specifically for the person insured. Lifestyle factors, like being obese do impact the price of cover. Although it is important to note for many individuals that are above the WHO’s BMI recommendation life cover is often not affected. Nevertheless, it is really worth considering this type of insurance, the earlier the better, before the complications of factors like aging or weight may take effect. So, if an individual is looking for life cover and they’d like to know more about how their weight or lifestyle may affect it we would recommend they contact a Financial Broker.”
Royal London is the largest mutual life, pensions and investment company in the UK and Ireland with group funds under management of €128.3 billion. Group businesses provide around 8.8 million policies and employ 3,637 people (figures quoted are as at 31 December 2017). Royal London’s Irish office is based at 47- 49 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2.