Updated after access to full presentation: Reporting Scotland makes major arithmetical error or attempts to panic Scottish women

On Saturday 26th May 2018 at 5:45pm, we heard:

‘New research suggests that more than 1 in 3 women in Scotland will be morbidly obese, that’s at least 100 pounds above their ideal weight, by 2035. The research presented today in Vienna at the European Congress on Obesity indicates that women who have been to university are likely to be more adversely affected than those who didn’t

Here are the figures from a report in Medical Express:

‘The new estimates indicate that rates of morbid obesity in adults will reach 5% in Scotland (compared to 4% in 2015), 8% in England (2.9% in 2016), and 11% in Wales (3% in 2015) by 2035.’

So, 1 in 20 Scots are expected to be morbidly obese by 2035. The full paper suggests 5% of women and 6% of men will morbidly obese by 2035. Perhaps Reporting Scotland have misread the prediction for overall obesity rates as being that for morbid obesity rates? See this:

‘By 2035, [not morbid] obesity rates will be highest, and see the greatest rise, in adults working in routine and manual positions. As a result, the difference in obesity levels between those in managerial roles (29% males, 31% females) and those in routine and manual roles (39% males, 40% females) is expected to widen in England and Wales (with the exception of English females where it is expected to reduce).’

It seems too obvious. Have I missed something?


There are three serious problems with this report.

First, we appear to have an error confusing obesity with morbid obesity, producing tabloid headlines with a consequent negative effect on many female viewers and thus failing to inform viewers in a manner promised in the BBC’s charter.

Second, we have the failure to report on the key finding that morbid obesity, in Scotland, is expected to plateau at 5% while soaring past that figure elsewhere in the UK.

Third, we have the failure to report on the explanation for the above trend. The researchers offered a clear, confident and simple explanation for the significantly slower growth in obesity in Scotland – Scottish Government policy initiatives and resource allocation. For example: ‘The government put a massive push on developing a route map for how we can actually combat this. They put together resources from the NHS that were proving to be effective. They did put a lot of work into it.’ Further evidence of the effectiveness of the above initiatives can be seen in this: ‘However, almost no 15-to-24-year-old males in Scotland are expected to fall within this category, compared to 6% of the same group in England, the data shows.’


I appreciate that this was a short item but that does not justify the error and the major omission of both the key trend in Scotland or the explanation of it.

Footnote: I’ll make a further complaint to BBC and let you know how it goes.


13 thoughts on “Updated after access to full presentation: Reporting Scotland makes major arithmetical error or attempts to panic Scottish women

  1. Rod Towers May 27, 2018 / 10:12 am

    Bit off topic, but staying with the arthmetic theme, in the Scotsman there is an article on the true cost of paracetamol to the SNHS. The headline figure screams £57m! Of course this is since free prescriptions were introduced in 2011, i.e. over seven years so using a figure of 5.2 million for the population that comes to £1.57 for each of us.

    Probably same to assume they think most readers of the Scotsman are inumerate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alasdair Macdonald May 27, 2018 / 10:49 am

    I think your exposition is correct and that the three issues you have highlighted are valid.

    Granting the principle of charity suggests that the person compiling the BBC report has, indeed, failed to appreciate the difference between obesity and morbid obesity. However, one would expect that journalistic training would emphasise the need to look for such nuances. It is more likely, however, that the compiler of the BBC report has a shaky grasp of statistics. Sadly, this is more likely as such incapability is pretty widespread across the population.

    Therefore, if I am justified in being charitable, the BBC should simply respond courteously to you and print or broadcast an apology for their error and for any distress caused. Most newspapers have such systems, where they – somewhat grudgingly – print corrections.

    However, I suspect that it is a product of the mindset of ‘Scotland and Scots are pure shite’. I think this attitude has a strong class element in it. The people with whom BBC types attend dinner parties are not obese, like what scumbags in the ‘schemes’ of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee and in the industrial towns of the Central Belt. I suspect, too, that there is a misogynistic aspect, too. Of course, Donalda and many within the news and current affairs team are women, but, they are the kind of women who have personal trainers and don’t wear shell-suits. Their children probably attend private schools.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alasdair Macdonald May 27, 2018 / 10:51 am

      As an afterthought, remember the famous feminist book, by Andrea Dworkin, ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’? I suspect we might have an instance of it here. Fat is a class issue, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. gavin May 27, 2018 / 7:02 pm

    My first take on this would be that the BBC North British chapter is obsessed with showing Scotland in as bad a light as it can manipulate.

    But I might be mistaken. Perhaps the fatheads who compiled this report (and all similar reports) weren’t just run-of-the-mill fatheads, but were obese fatheads—maybe even morbidly obese fatheads—could THAT explain it?

    An endless diet of Ruthie-cheesieburgers and sickeningly sugared Britnat Maybot Red, White and Glue-sniffin’ news items can do that to a news compiler!


    • johnrobertson834 May 27, 2018 / 7:47 pm

      Thanks for the laugh Gavin. I think we can still use the term fathead.


  4. Contrary May 28, 2018 / 9:10 am

    Just catching up here, and thankfully haven’t heard/read/seen any BBC news – you need a rest from it regularly or you turn into a gibbering wreck really.

    Radio Scotland just love obesity, it’s their standby subject for when the actual news becomes inconvenient (e.g. Mad uk government pronouncements regarding poisonings, mad uk government destruction of devolution, mad uk government incoherence on Brexit, mad uk government,,, hmm, well, there appears to be a lot of covering up to do for the shambles that is the current uk government – I mean, the whole system has always been corrupt, but the current power hungry cabal really do have mince for brains. That T May is still popular with ‘British’ voters shows that the only way Scotland will ever get a choice in how it’s run will be from independence.)

    I have noticed that, on the radio, on their version of a slow-news day, they will pull out the old favourite of obesity for the phone-in. They have a large range of people that like to obediently phone in to say how much cheaper it is to buy vegetables – conveniently forgetting that it;a) takes time to prepare b) it takes electricity/gas to cook c) that if you are on minimum wage you have to work longer hours just to scrape by. Because indeed they make it a class thing, and it likely is influenced by that, so why not start paying everyone the real living wage and giving good working conditions and regulating power companies so that firing up the oven isn’t an extortionate expense? These are all reserved to westminster, of course, the government that has been loudly criticised by the UN for human rights abuses – you haven’t heard about that? Gosh, maybe the BBC was too busy telling us how fat we are & how it’s all our own fault (nothing to do with the structure of society that tells us to sit in our car-bus-train then sit in an office all day then pay to do a worthless half hour in the gym), to mention it. Westminster is actually killing people with its policies, but our news can’t link that to drugs/obesity? Of course the government want people fat, tired and drugged out their nut, keeps the population docile.

    I think I’ve listened to too many obesity phone-ins!

    On the subject of BBC bias and complaints – well, it might be hitting your head off a brick wall (strange how we all assume this, expect it, think it’s not ‘worth the bother’ – ah the old grind em down, they’ll get fed up eventually technique) – but at least it’s in writing, that is, there is a record of it. And, yes they have been, and are, biased – but there is so much of it and it’s so insidious where do you start? How can you pursue one issue when there are hundreds more needing attention?

    So how do we know the BBC is purposefully biased?

    1) they have acknowledged the accusations of bias, but do nothing about it and just flatly deny it.

    Now, not many people like criticism, but if you have any pride in your work, or the bbc charter for that matter, would you not offer to investigate, restructure, put in place sense-checks etc? Actual evidence has been given to them again and again. So, they know they are doing it.

    2) their repeated attacks on social media, declaring it across the board as ‘fake news’.

    That is, any reports outside their control, that may imply they are biased or not reporting the actual news, are being called out as false. While newspapers with their disgusting hate filled rhetoric is fine,,, because they never suggest any of their fellows may be wrong. The Internet is filled with all sorts, but actual reasoned, evidence-based articles are put on the pile of ‘nothing to see here’?

    3) the repeated memes and omissions.

    Good news: ‘scottish’ government. Bad news: ‘SNP’ government. – as an aside (haha, all my comments are are asides!!) we use ‘bad’ news to summarise what they are doing, I.e. Only reporting the shitty parts of any news, but I think we need to change the phrasing there, even to ‘puts scotland in an undeservedly bad light’ ,,, um, not very catchy I admit. But by repeating it, we are ourselves associating everything bad with the SNP, and I don’t think they deserve that. End of aside 🙂 . Can you keep repeating things that you have been called out on and not be aware of it? Yes and no, you should always question what you are thinking or saying if called out on it, but if you repeat something often enough & others tire of calling you out on it,,, it becomes habit. There are thousands of wee things we hear repeatedly that we lose awareness of, (not least using ‘female’ or ‘male’ as a noun instead of an ADJECTIVE! They are describing words, they categorise nouns, and when people start calling themselves ‘a female’ I know the media have done their job. I just say ‘a female what? A female goat?’ It still enrages me. Everyone thinks I’m mad, but it is a part of the meme thing to change thinking, changing the meaning of words, and it is done purely through MSM. It’s probably in the dictionary by now too.)

    I could go on, of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gerry Robertson May 29, 2018 / 9:16 am

    Yet more fake news brought to you by our own public service broadcaster


  6. sam May 30, 2018 / 2:59 pm

    “The research presented today in Vienna at the European Congress on Obesity indicates that women who have been to university are likely to be more adversely affected than those who didn’t”

    This claim would seem to be the opposite of what Pickett et al found – that there is a statistically significant association between obesity and income inequality. Those with less income are less likely to go to university.

    “Among developed countries for which data are available, income inequality was significantly related to obesity amongmen and women, diabetes mortality and average calorie intake, both before and after controlling for GNI per capita, whether or not countries were weighted for population size. Controlling for calorie intake attenuated the association between income inequality and obesity, particularly among men. Although we are unaware of other international studies of income inequality and obesity, our findings are consistent with studies within the USA, which have shown associations between state level income inequality and abdominal weight gain in men,21 odds of sedentary lifestyles among both men and women and higher BMI among women.22 In the latter study, BMI among the poor was particularly associated with income inequality.”

    Click to access v059p00670.pdf

    “Of every hundred adults in England…26 are obese 3 are morbidly obese…

    …The data above covers obesity in England. Data for other UK countries is gathered and reported separately. Each country presents its data in a
    different format and level of detail.”


    Scottish research says this about obesity in Scotland

    “Health inequalities are the unfair and avoidable differences in people’s health across social groups and between different population groups.7 Obesity increases people’s risk of a number of health conditions and reduces life expectancy by an average of three years, or 8–10 years for severe obesity.
    8 Inequalities in the distribution of obesity will therefore contribute to inequalities in many health outcomes.

    People living in the most socioeconomically deprived circumstances experience multiple vulnerabilities and exposures that increase their risk of obesity.9
    Increasing people’s awareness of the fact that obesity can be harmful to health, and highlighting the kinds of actions individuals can take to reduce and prevent it can open or worsen an inequalities gap. This is because the people with the most financial resources tend to be the most able to make changes to their lifestyle and immediate environment to help them maintain a healthy weight. Obesity-related inequalities are therefore symptomatic of the
    fundamental causes of wider health inequalities – an unequal distribution of income,power and wealth….

    ….The prevalence of obesity in adults aged 18–64 increased from 17% in 1995 to 27% in 2008, and has remained at a similar level since then (Figure 1). The most recent figures for 2015 show that 28% of men and 29% of women aged 18–64 were obese. Overall levels of overweight – including obesity – have increased from 40% in men and 31% in women in 1995, to 66% in men and 60% in women in 2015…..

    …The likelihood of obesity is higher for people living in deprived areas [measured using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation14 (SIMD)]. This is particularly the case for women and children. Levels of overweight, in contrast, do not vary notably by area deprivation.

    The figures in the chart below (Figure 4) show that, in all years, men and women in the most deprived areas are more likely to be obese than men and women in the least deprived areas (for simplicity, only the figures for the most and least deprived groups are shown). Men and women living in the least deprived areas now have very similar levels of obesity. In contrast, levels of obesity are higher for women in deprived areas than they are for men in deprived areas. The gap between the most and least deprived areas is also much bigger for women than it is for men. ”

    Click to access scotpho170727-obesity-and-health-inequalities-in-scotland-summary-report.pdf

    Since the fundamental causes of health inequalities are the inequitable distributions of wealth, power and income in Scotland the remedy is to redistribute wealth, power and income. Without control of the economic and welfare policies Scotland lacks the means to address the fundamental causes most effectively. The BBC always reports the effects of health inequalities and never the fundamental causes. That would mean reporting the damage done by austerity policies and the making of a more unequal society.


    • johnrobertson834 May 31, 2018 / 6:39 am

      ‘Since the fundamental causes of health inequalities are the inequitable distributions of wealth, power and income in Scotland the remedy is to redistribute wealth, power and income. Without control of the economic and welfare policies Scotland lacks the means to address the fundamental causes most effectively. The BBC always reports the effects of health inequalities and never the fundamental causes. That would mean reporting the damage done by austerity policies and the making of a more unequal society.’

      Absolutely correct. Thanks very much for putting this together.


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