obeseoldWhere you live and the level of deprivation can affect your efforts to lose weight, according to new research which found that obesity was most common among older, poor people.

A study by Sheffield University found that people from wealthy areas are more likely to use slimming clubs than people from deprived areas. They also found that those from deprived areas are more likely to use weight-loss medications than their richer neighbours. Obesity affects 22.8% of those between the ages of 56 to 75 and 16.9% of people aged 76 or over.

More than half of the 26,000 people who took part in the study were overweight, with 19.6% found to be obese. People living in deprived areas were twice as likely to be obese than those living in richer areas.

When asked which methods they had used to manage their weight, the most common strategies included healthy eating (49%), increasing exercise (43.4%) and reducing portion size (43%). Those living in the most deprived areas were least likely to report managing their weight through these methods but were the most likely to report using weight loss medication and/or meal replacements.

Further reading: Obesity and cardiometabolic risk

While only 1.9% of people in wealthy areas had tried weight loss medication, twice as many people from deprived areas had taken pills (alli, orlistat, herbal remedies, appetite suppressants etc) to control their weight. People in deprived areas were also the least likely to have attended a slimming club.

The study also found that women were much more likely to be concerned about their weight than men, despite the fact that more men were overweight than women. Some 44% of men were found to be overweight, compared to 31% of women. But 45% of women reported feeling concerned about their weight compared to just 31% of men.

Dr Clare Relton who led the study at the University of Sheffield said: “This study shows that both obesity and the approaches people use to manage their weight vary according to whether you live in a deprived area or a wealthy area.”

Professor Paul Bissell, who was involved in the study at Sheffield University, said “We’ve known for some time about the social gradient in obesity, but this study also provides evidence that services are differentially taken up by patients according to levels of deprivation”.