6 types of obesity need tailored treatments

"We are all different and different health promotion approaches work for different people," says Mark Green. (Credit: iStockphoto)

People who are obese too often receive the same treatment, regardless of how healthy they are, where they live, or their behavioral characteristics. But a new study shows that one size does not fit all.

Individuals with a BMI of 30 or higher actually fit into one of six groups, researchers say, and strategies to successfully tackle weight loss should be tailored according to which group they fall into.

The six groups include: young males who are heavy drinkers, middle-aged adults who are unhappy and anxious, older people who despite living with physical health conditions are happy, younger healthy females, older affluent healthy adults, and individuals with very poor health.

Targeted intervention

Researchers say it’s important for health policy makers to recognize differences in individuals with obesity and to target or tailor interventions accordingly to best help individuals achieve a healthier lifestyle. A targeted healthcare approach could also be a more efficient use of services.


“Policies designed to tackle obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles often target individuals just because they are obese,” says Mark Green from the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield.

“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.”

For the study, published in the Journal of Public Health, researchers used data from the Yorkshire Health Study which included 4,144 obese individuals.

Findings suggest messages about alcohol reduction could help tackle obesity in young adults. Middle aged individuals who are unhappy and anxious could benefit from intervention involving increasing exercise mixed with psycho-social counseling. Those in the poorest health group would be better served by being given modest goals rather than increased exercise.

Source: University of Sheffield