SCIENTISTS have identified six types of obese people.
A study suggested people with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more fall into six categories: heavy drinking males, young healthy females, the affluent and healthy elderly, the physically sick but happy elderly, the unhappy and anxious middle-aged and those with the poorest health.
In the future, we hope that GPs will keep in mind these six groups when offering advice.Dr Mark Green
Researchers said their findings suggest that clinicians and policy-makers should not target obese individuals as a whole, but treat them according to which “type” they belong to.
The study, led by the University of Sheffield, analysed people with a BMI of 30 or above. Anyone who is 30 or more is classed as obese.
The method has long been used to measure individuals in terms of their height and weight, but does not account for variation across other factors such as health, demographic and behavioural characteristics.
To carry out their research, the team looked at health-related variables such as whether the individuals reported conditions such as fatigue, pain, insomnia, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or cancer.
Demographic variables included were their age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic deprivation; while their well-being was assessed by asking them how satisfied they were with their lives on a scale of nought to 10.
Whether they smoked, the number of units of alcohol consumed in the previous week, how often they were active and whether they engaged in active weight management – such as going to slimming clubs and making a conscious effort to eat more healthily – were also taken into account in working out what type they were.
The study found the largest cluster was “younger healthy females”. They displayed the most positive health characteristics of all the groups and engaged in some healthy behaviours.
“Heavy drinking males” showed similar characteristics except with respect to their high alcohol consumption.
This group were also less likely to be managing their weight, although they did report above average levels of physical exercise and walking.
The “unhappy anxious middle-aged” group was primarily female, had poor mental health and reported high levels of insomnia, anxiety, depression and fatigue.
The “affluent healthy elderly” was the least deprived cluster and had positive health characteristics. The “physically sick but happy elderly” group had a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions but exhibited low levels of anxiety and depression.
The final group, made up of those with the “poorest health”, was the most deprived, had the highest prevalence of most chronic health conditions, and tended not to engage in healthy behaviours. It also had the highest mean BMI.
The study, published in the Journal of Public Health, was led by Dr Mark Green from Sheffield University’s school of health, who said: “Policies designed to tackle obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles often target individuals just because they are obese.
“Our research showed that those in the groups that we identified are likely to need very different services. In the future, we hope that GPs will keep in mind these six groups when offering advice to their patients.”
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