Researchers at the University of Sheffield have identified the personality and circumstantial effects that effect a person’s weight
Are you a ‘heavy-drinking male’, ‘anxious middle-aged’ or a ‘sick but happy’ old person?
These are among the six types of obese person identified by scientists in a new study – which could revolutionise how doctors treat the overweight.
The study puts fatties in 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.
Boffins at the University of Sheffield analysed people with a body mass index (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, social background and behaviour.
Overweight people were asked whether they were suffering from fatigue, pain, insomnia, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or cancer.
They were also asked about their age, sex, ethnicity and level of wealth – and how satisfied they were with their lives, on a scale of 1 to 10 – as well as how much they smoked, ate, drank and how much exercise they took.
The study found the largest group was ‘younger healthy females’, which was also the youngest group and displayed the most healthy behaviour.
‘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 mostly female, had poor mental health and reported high levels of insomnia, anxiety, depression and fatigue.
Their sense of wellbeing was relatively low, but they did engage in healthy physical activity and weight management, and had the lowest alcohol consumption.
The ‘affluent healthy elderly’ was the least deprived cluster and had the best health – despite high blood pressure – and above average alcohol consumption.
The ‘physically sick but happy elderly’ group had a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions including osteoarthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure but had low levels of anxiety and depression.
The final group, made up of those with the ‘poorest health’, was the most deprived, unhealthiest and fattest.
Researchers said doctors should assess what group obese patients might fall into and treat them accordingly.
For example, for the ‘unhappy anxious middle-aged’ should take more exercise and be given counselling, while for those in the ‘poorest health’ may be too fat to take exercise.
Young adults should be told to drink less.
Dr Mark Green, sho led the study, said: “Policies designed to tackle obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles often target individuals just because they are obese.
“But a focus on just the group as a whole is not very efficient. We are all different and different health promotion approaches work for different people.
“Our research showed that those in the groups that we identified are likely to need very different services, and will respond very differently to different health promotion policies.
“In the future, we hope that GPs will keep in mind these six groups when offering advice to their patients.”
The findings are published in the Journal of Public Health.