My role


Men are fatter than women.

And we know it

About 70% of men consider themselves overweight according to a new survey for the MHF for Men's Health Week which starts today. This is slightly more than the official figure which puts 65% of men in the 'unhealthy weight' category (defined as a body mass index over 25). So we know we have a problem but can we - will we - do anything about it?

National Men's Health Week aims to raise awareness of the staggering increase in male weight problems. Currently, some 14,000 male deaths a year are directly attributable to obesity. This figure is set to increase as the problem escalates, precipitating a devastating cost, both in terms of those affected and the health service.

About two thirds of men (65%) currently have a body mass index of more than 25 (the conventional indicator of an unhealthy, excess weight) compared to just over half of women (55%). Projections for 2010, based on present trends, show that three quarters of men (75%) will be overweight or obese compared to just under two thirds of women (64%).

A key issue the Forum hopes to highlight is the difference in the way men and women approach weight problems in terms of their attitudes to diet, exercise and body image, and their behaviour. Currently, health messages about weight loss are almost all geared to women, but this approach does not connect with men.

In the survey of a representative sample of 1,028 men aged 16-64 carried out for the Men's Health Forum for Men's Health Week:

  • 70% of men in the survey stated they were overweight, and of the men who saw themselves as 'quite a lot overweight', 'obese' or 'seriously obese', 73% believed it was because of their sedentary lifestyle. Almost one in five (18%) of the overweight men surveyed said that their weight had caused them to be out of breath when walking.

  • Only 39% of the men who believed themselves to be overweight said that long-term health risks would be a motivator for weight loss. This was striking, especially considering that more overweight men (43%) said that physical appearance/reduced ability to 'chat someone up' would motivate them to lose weight.

  • Only a third of overweight men would be motivated to lose weight even if being overweight affected their sex life.

  • Although a large majority of men (over 80%) know that being overweight is associated with heart disease and high blood pressure, fewer understand the links with other significant health problems. Only 63% know that being overweight is linked to diabetes and joint problems and just 32% are aware of the link with erection problems.

  • Over half of overweight men (53%) said they would not consider seeking help for their weight problem from their GP and 87% said they would not go to a slimming club.

'Men are often less well informed about nutrition and how to lose weight than women,' says Dr Ian Banks, President of the Men's Health Forum. 'To be effective, advice must to be tailored to men. Currently, health messages about weight loss are mostly geared to women, in ways that men don't connect with. Support for male weight loss has to be provided in a range of settings, such as the workplace and online, as well as through the GP practice.'

Waist measurement is a key risk factor. Men tend to store excess weight around their waist (abdomen) but once a man's waist reaches 40 inches (102 cms), the risk of becoming seriously ill increases dramatically. However, nearly a third of the men surveyed were not aware that a waist circumference of greater than 40" was a significant risk to health.

'Men need to be made more aware of the health implications of excess abdominal fat, or central obesity, and how to lose weight,' warns Dr David Haslam, Chair of the National Obesity Forum l. 'Reducing waist size alone can lead to significant improvements in health, so being able to notch in a belt can be a good and simple way of gauging healthy weight loss.'

For Men's Health Week, the Forum is launching:

The HGV Man manual

The MHF has once again teamed up with the leading car manual publishers, Haynes, to launch the HGV Man manual, the latest in their family health series aimed at men. This delivers information on healthy weight loss in a male-friendly, MOT/mechanical way, including recipes for the kind of fuel that won't overload the chassis, or clog the carburettors!

As the largest single employer of men in the UK, Royal Mail is supporting the campaign with a special postage cancellation mark, which will run for six weeks and appear on over one billion letters, The 'Delivering Male Health' mark will drive men (and women) to the MHF's award-winning health information website,, where they can find out more about weight and other men's health issues.  Look out for it your letters.

DH sponsored conference and MHF Policy Document

Kicking-off the week on 13 June will be the MHF special conference, 'Hazardous Waist? New approaches to tackling male weight problems', which is sponsored by the Department of Health and will be chaired by Sir Trevor Brooking and Dr Mark Porter with keynote speeches by Dr David Haslam, Alan White (Professor of Men's Health at Leeds Metropolitan University) and Dr Gina Radford (Regional Director of Public Health, East of England Public Health Group) on behalf of the Department of Health.

The MHF will be launching their policy document at the conference. This outlines the key contributing factors to male overweight and obesity and provides a call to action for politicians and healthcare providers to help avert a public health crisis. The keynote speeches and panel discussion from the conference can be viewed live online by registering here.

Activities around the UK

During the Week, a wide range of activities will take place nationwide to encourage men to look at their weight, alert them to the health risks and provide 'male-friendly' advice and practical next steps to help motivate them to shed those excess pounds.

Page created on June 13th, 2005

Page updated on December 1st, 2009