One in six face weight discrimination

July 29, 2011

Brits are turning to obesity drugs to beat the bullies as one in six claim to have faced discrimination because of their weight.

Research1 by The Co-operative Pharmacy has revealed almost one in five people aged between 18 and 35 years old have been victimised over their weight with women the most likely to be ridiculed about their bodies.

Depression and stress was the greatest influence to piling on the pounds for one in eight people. The study found that weight worries started at three years old, with almost two out of five youngsters aged under 20 worrying about their weight. However, according to the Government2 three in ten children aged two to 15 were classed as either overweight or obese (29%).

The study found that three out of five people have sought medical help from a pharmacist or GP to help lose weight and the latest figures3 show that prescription items for drugs for the treatment of obesity have risen nine fold in ten years. The basic cost of these drugs has increased from £6.6 million to £46.8 million.

The Co-operative Pharmacy reported sales of weight loss drugs had risen by 65% in the last year and sales of other slimming products had increased by 20%.4

Number of prescription items for obesity drugs in England dispensed by strategic health authority:

Strategic health authority Number of prescription items for obesity drugs
North West SHA  257,000
London SHA  195,000
Yorkshire & Humber SHA 171,000
West Midlands SHA 159,000
East of England SHA 147,000
East Midlands SHA 129,000
South West SHA 112,000
South East Coast  105,000
North East SHA  96,000
South Central             76,000
Total 1,450,000

Mandeep Mudhar from The Co-operative Pharmacy said:  “Various factors can act as a trigger for weight gain, for example stress or illness but while medication can help to promote weight loss in certain circumstances, it is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle and exercise. 

“It is concerning that people start to worry about their weight at such a young age and that people are being bullied because of their weight.

“A wealth of health information and weight loss options are readily available and we would urge people who are concerned about their weight to speak to their local pharmacist or GP to find the most suitable course of action for their individual needs.”

Professor David Haslam a GP and Chair of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Anti-obesity discrimination is deplorable, but is some sections of society often view it as the last acceptable form of discrimination. The psychological aspects of obesity are often overlooked and this research confirms and emphasises the true depth of the problem.

“The NOF is supportive of any initiatives or products which include physical activity and nutrition advice and have the evidence to back their claims, and some over the counter products can be extremely helpful for individuals struggling with their weight."

And The Co-operative Pharmacy, which has private consultation rooms across the majority of its 800 strong UK branch network, has encouraged people to overcome their weight worries by discussing concerns with a pharmacist.

The top five places for weight discrimination are:

  • Wolverhampton
  • Portsmouth
  • Sheffield
  • Aberystwyth
  • Birmingham

In England, there has been a rise in the number of people who are obese from 13% in 1993 to 22% in 2009 and from 16% to 24% for women. Those adults with a normal BMI has fallen between 1993 and 2009, from 41% to 32% among men and from 49% to 41% among women.5

The Body Mass Index (BMI) calculates a person’s weight (in kilograms) by the square of their height (in metres). In adults, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 means that person is considered to be overweight and a BMI of 30 or above means that person is considered to be obese.

Additional Information:



Notes to Editors:

The Co-operative Group is the UK’s largest mutual business, owned not by private shareholders but by almost six million consumers.  It is the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the leading convenience store operator and a major financial services provider, operating both The Co-operative Bank and The Co-operative Insurance. Among its other businesses are the number one funeral services provider and Britain’s largest farming operation. As well as having clear financial and operational objectives, the Group has also set out its social and sustainability goals in its groundbreaking Ethical Plan, which specifies almost 50 commitments in these areas.

The Group operates over 5,000 retail trading outlets, employs more than 110,000 people and has an annual turnover of £13.7bn.  Further information is available at


Contact Information: 

Alex Wilson
Senior Public Relations Officer
The Co-operative Group
Tel: 0161 2663416 / 07540 641368


Craig Noonan
PR Manager
The Co-operative Group
Tel: 0161 266 3589 / 07702 505439