Relton, Clare, Li, Jessica, Strong, Mark, Holdsworth, Michelle, Cooper, Richard, Green, Mark and Bissell, Paul (2014) Deprivation, clubs and drugs: results of a UK regional population-based cross-sectional study of weight management strategies. BMC Public Health, 14 (1). ISSN 1471-2458

Despite rising levels of obesity in England, little is known about slimming club and weight loss drug (medication) use or users. In order to inform future commissioning, we report the prevalence of various weight management strategies and examine the associations between slimming club and medication use and age, gender, deprivation and body mass index.

A population based cross-sectional survey of 26,113 adults was conducted in South Yorkshire using a self-completed health questionnaire. Participants were asked whether they had ever used the following interventions to manage their weight: increasing exercise, healthy eating, controlling portion size, slimming club, over the counter weight loss medication, or meal replacements. Factors associated with slimming club and weight-loss medication use were explored using logistic regression.

Over half of the sample was either overweight (36.6%) or obese (19.6%). Obesity was more common in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived (26.3% vs. 12.0%). Healthy eating (49.0%), controlling portion size (43.4%), and increasing exercise (43.0%) were the most commonly reported weight management strategies. Less common strategies were attending a slimming club (17.2%), meal replacements (3.4%) and weight-loss medication (3.2%). Adjusting for BMI, age, deprivation and long standing health conditions, women were significantly more likely to report ever using a slimming club (adjusted OR = 18.63, 95% CI = 16.52–21.00) and more likely to report ever using over the counter weight-loss medications (AOR = 3.73, 95% CI = 3.10-4.48), while respondents from the most deprived areas were less likely to report using slimming clubs (AOR = 0.60, 95% CI = 0.53-0.68), and more likely to reporting using weight loss medications (AOR =1.38, 95% CI = 1.05-1.82).

A large proportion of individuals report having used weight management strategies. Slimming clubs and over-the-counter weight loss medication account for a smaller proportion of the overall uptake. Those from less deprived areas were more likely to use slimming clubs while those from more deprived areas were more likely to use weight-loss medications. Future NHS and Local Authority commissioning of weight management services must be aware of this varying social gradient in weight management strategies.

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