Sharp rise in Suffolk and Essex obesity hospital admissions ‘concerning’

A rising number of people are visiting hospital with obesity-related issues. Picture: PETER BYRNE/PA

A rising number of people are visiting hospital with obesity-related issues. Picture: PETER BYRNE/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Hospital admissions where obesity was a factor have almost doubled in Suffolk over four years, new NHS figures reveal.

Tony Goldson, cabinet member for Health at Suffolk County Council. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Tony Goldson, cabinet member for Health at Suffolk County Council. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The rate has increased in Essex by 36% over the same period.

Obesity is a cause of 13 types of cancer and Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, has labelled the data “concerning”.

In 2016/17, 10,009 people in Suffolk were admitted to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity.

That works out as 1,352 people per 100,000 of the population, which is higher than the England average of 1,159.

Ezra Hewing from Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Ezra Hewing from Suffolk Mind. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

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This was a 6% rise from the previous year, and a massive jump from 2013/14 when there were 5,399 obesity-related hospital admissions in Suffolk.

Women are now twice as likely than men to go to hospital with obesity problems in Suffolk, the statistics from NHS Digital show. This is reflected nationally.

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In Essex, there were 9,611 hospital admissions where obesity played a part during 2016/17 – working out at 671 people per 100,000 of the population.

This was an increase of 17% on 2015/16 and an even bigger rise from four years ago when 7,053 obese patients stayed in hospital.

Prof Bauld said: “The rise in hospital admissions due to obesity in Suffolk and Essex is concerning. Obesity is a cause of thirteen types of cancer including some of the most common cancers and some of the hardest to treat, like pancreatic cancer.

“While people should be encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles, research shows that we need to change the food environment to make healthy choices easier. That’s why Cancer Research UK is calling on the government to take more action on junk food marketing, for example, which we know prompts people to buy foods that can contribute to obesity.”

Local authorities are responsible for commissioning some public health services in their area.

Suffolk County Council’s health boss Tony Goldson said the public sector was “working hard” to tackle the problem by launching free weight management programmes through One Life Suffolk.

He added: “Easy access to unhealthy food and drink choices (including alcohol), coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle than previous generations means there are more adults with obesity, both across the county and indeed the country.”

An Essex County Council spokeswoman said: “We are working hard to ensure that all our residents are supported to maintain a healthy weight.”

She said the council had recently transformed its weight management services in a bid to reach more people, and was also empowering residents to support themselves.

“A goal of this approach is to make healthy weight behaviours the social norm, where reducing high sugar/high fat foods and overconsumption, and regular physical activity is part of daily life,” he added.

Ezra Hewing, head of mental health education at Suffolk Mind, has highlighted the links between obesity and poor mental health.

He said: “Weight problems can affect our mental health and our mental health can affect our ability to manage our weight.

“Sometimes we might use fats and sugars to try and shift low mood or alleviate stress by giving us a quick fix. But this doesn’t address unmet emotional needs for things like emotional connection, community and to achieve things which give us a healthy sense of self-esteem.

“On the flipside, obesity can become a barrier to people choosing to take part in healthy activities.

“Some medications prescribed for mental illnesses like schizophrenia can affect motivation too, and people will often experience weight gain during the first year of taking anti-psychotics.”

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