Scots agree that cheap fast food is too easily accessible and support change

The majority of Scots support action to reduce the levels of sugar, fat and salt in food, according to the latest Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey.

Findings from the survey “Public attitudes to reducing levels of overweight and obesity in Scotland” found the majority (91%) thought cheap fast food was too easily accessible. 

The SSA survey commissioned by NHS Health and carried out in 2016, included a module on obesity to find out what people think about action to tackle obesity.

The most popular measure to tackle obesity (86%) was more free weight management courses and the second most popular measure (82%) was for limiting the amount of fat, sugar and salt that can be added to food and drink by manufacturers. 

The study found 62% supported a tax on sugary fizzy drinks, however, it found there to be less support (47%) for taxation on foods high in fat, suggesting that, currently, the public perceive foods high fat differently to those high in sugar. 

Seven out of 10 people agreed that levels of people being overweight and obese was a problem that needed to be addressed. 

About 80% of those asked agreed with the statement that most people are overweight because they eat too much and exercise too little.

Even more (91%) said people were overweight because of the type of food they ate. Less than a fifth of people surveyed said being overweight was something inherited from parents or because of low metabolism.

When asked who is responsible for reducing obesity in Scotland most thought individuals who are very overweight (obese) themselves were responsible. The next most frequently selected groups were healthcare professionals (e.g. doctors or nurses), food and drink manufacturers, schools and family and friends of people who are very overweight (obese).

The survey also found that 66% backed restricting unhealthy foods at supermarket checkouts. There was also majority support for restrictions on advertising and sponsorship, and restrictions on portion size.

According to the survey, people "underestimated" the health effects of being overweight and obese. Less than half the population understood the risk of cancer from being obese, it said.

Scotland has one of the highest levels of overweight and obesity among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.  The percentage of adults in Scotland who are overweight and obese rose from 52% in 1995 to 65% in 2016, including 29% that are obese.

The obesity module in the SSA survey included 40 questions which were developed in consultation with colleagues from NHS Health Scotland. A random sample of 1,237 individuals aged 16 years and older in Scotland took part in the survey.

REHIS is a registered charity in Scotland, SC009406

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