By continuing to use the site you agree to our Privacy & Cookies policy

Majority of nurses say they are overweight

Around half of nurses consider themselves to be overweight and nearly one in 10 think they are very overweight, according to our annual survey on health and wellbeing.

The sensitive topic of weight among health professionals has gained more importance in recent years as pressure grows on clinicians to intervene over the growing waistlines of their patients.

Of the 2,182 respondents in our survey, 48% described themselves as “overweight”, while 8% said they were “very overweight”. A small percentage, 5%, considered themselves to be “underweight or “very underweight”, while 39% thought they were “about right”.

The findings show little change from when we asked similar questions in our last survey on health and wellbeing in 2011.

This year’s survey also sought to investigate factors that might be affecting these answers, noting that it is almost exactly four years since the Boorman Review concluded there was a “strong case” for investing in NHS staff health and wellbeing.

But in our survey two thirds of nurses said they rarely had enough time to eat healthily and nearly a third claimed their employer did not provide healthy food options.

Only 4% of 2,177 respondents to our survey said they “always” had enough time at work to eat a healthy, balanced diet. A further 30% they “mostly” had time to do so, but 43% said they “rarely” did and 23% said “never”.

When asked whether their employer provided healthy choices of food in its catering facilities, 33% said “yes” but 30% said “no”.

In August hospital trusts in England were criticised by the World Cancer Research Fund for not offering enough healthy options in vending machines.

The survey also looked at physical exercise levels, with mixed results. Nearly half of respondents said they exercised at least once a week, but a third said they rarely exercised at all. 

We asked: do you do muscle-strengthening and/or moderate/vigorous aerobic activity that raises your heart rate. Of those who responded, 24% said “almost never” and 8% said “never”.

This contrasted with 5% who said “daily”, 17% who said “three or more times a week” and 24% who said “once or twice a week”. A further 17% said they exercised to this level “less than weekly” while 5% said “once a month”.   

The NHS Choices website recommends adults do at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as fast walking, a week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity, such as running – plus muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days.

Are you able to Speak Out Safely? Sign our petition to put pressure on your trust to support an open and transparent NHS.

 

Readers' comments (35)

  • I have just started a new job in nursing after a break of a couple of years. Once again i am disaapointed that there is no where to get food for the staff, only a vending machine that is filled with sweets and crisps. i work 12 hour shifts and take my own food which is fine. My view is that if nursing was a mainly 'mans' job there would be canteens or restaurants and we would be able to have proper breaks or even a break. In my new job i am putting myself first before the work, i take my allocated breaks no matter what needs doing. That way i am nourished and able to work at the best of my ability. Gone are the days when i say to my colleagues "we have been so busy we haven't been able to have a break". Nurses need to look after themselves and not expect their employers or managers to because it won't happen.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • In work I can take a salad etc but although it's a rush to eat it I do at least get half an hour lunch break. My colleagues are mainly good healthy eaters which encourages everyone else. However when I get home I am totally exhausted and can barely manage a bowl of cereal before collapsing, cooking is definitely not an option. Regarding exercise - I am on my feet all day rushing here and there, also taking patients to other wards etc so why would I go to a gym or something - I'm barely able to get home after my shifts and on my days off I have to catch up with housework/gardening etc. I'd like less bullying, workload, stress and more support in work - that would help my health more than a vending machine with salads in.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I used to be of racing snake build until I got into unhealthy eating patterns as a result of being in a job where there was no opportunity to have meals at the proper time.

    Nowadays I just have to be more organised and avoid the temptation of vending machines and the chocolate laden hospital shop, pie shop and sub emporium where I can have cheese and mayo with everything :(

    That's before we start talking about Costa etc......

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • My dad was in the services and his pension was linked to how healthy he stayed after he retired. They gave him regular check ups, so if he didn't stop smoking or kept putting on weight or just sat round the house all day, he got less money. It was a real motivator and he got some very goof healthy living advice. But they did have a canteen and all sorts of things that we don't. Mind you if we all drop dead of an MI the government won't have to pay our pensions so I'm expecting more lard in the vending machines.....

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I work in community mental health what is this lunch break you speak of?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I have just started a new job in nursing after a break of a couple of years. Once again i am disaapointed that there is no where to get food for the staff, only a vending machine that is filled with sweets and crisps. i work 12 hour shifts and take my own food which is fine. My view is that if nursing was a mainly 'mans' job there would be canteens or restaurants and we would be able to have proper breaks or even a break. In my new job i am putting myself first before the work, i take my allocated breaks no matter what needs doing. That way i am nourished and able to work at the best of my ability. Gone are the days when i say to my colleagues "we have been so busy we haven't been able to have a break". Nurses need to look after themselves and not expect their employers or managers to because it won't happen.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • how quaint, the same scepticism was shown when the first books were printed in the 15th century!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • from Anonymous | 1-Oct-2013 9:14 pm


    apologies, comment above posted on wrong page.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • 2,182 respondants. You can hardly imply that these nurses speak for all of us fat gits.

    Title SHOULD read:

    "Majority of nurses* (from our small snapshot of the main nursing population) say they are overweight"

    *note: Nurses as a whole may not think this however.

    (our small snapshot consisted of 2181 "I can't believe its not Butter" addicts (average BMI of 43) who had just entered a 5 week cold Turkey style rehab center in Grimsby, and 1 other Nurse who was thin due to the lack of food they could purchase, because ALL their salary was spent on registering with the NMC. They gave their opinions and answered our survey because they were bribed with a small travel size pack of Flora (the 'healthy' alternative))

    Fail.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • tinkerbell

    nurses meal breaks, such fun! We mostly survived from the left overs off the food trolley. Who'd have thought that I would have grown to look forward to solidified macaroni cheese. Must be the drugs they put in it. A cup of gravy or custard or both and a left over roast potato - Hmm, doughnuts, stale but delicious all the same. I'd say to a colleague, 'there's a piece of cake there for you, in the corner, at 2 o'clock, i'll cover you while you eat it, if you get caught I know nothing about it and try to eat it without moving your mouth'. (cos as ward sister I couldn't be seen to be encouraging the staff to have food and water), alright if they dropped down from exhaustion but they mustn't eat on the ward and 'whatever you do don't bloody choke on it, we'll have a hard job explaining that away'.

    Yeah, yeah. Stupid rules are meant to be broken. If we didn't eat it it would go in the slop bin and there was little chance of getting a meal break.

    As a student one of our ward sisters was sat in the office with a plated meal and someone shouted in to her 'the nursing officers coming' she threw the whole lot, ceramic plate knife, fork out the window and we were on the first floor. Nurse came back said 'sorry it wasn't the nursing officer'.

    Once when I was in the office with the doctor my student brought me in a plate of toast and said 'do you want your toast here?'. Erm. The doctor said 'is that for you?'. I said 'yeah, do you want a slice?'. Caught red handed, who cares? Naïve students. After I had a quiet word with them explaining the rules and regulations that nurses are not allowed sustenance on the ward and neither do they usually get a meal break and not usually the luxury of a plate and in future just wrap it up in some paper towels and just give us a nod and i'll stick it in my pocket for laters! Feral little scavengers that we are.





    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I am early 60's not overweight take regular excercise and sit at my desk and eat my salad which I put together either the night before or in the morning along with the occassional chocolate given by a patient. However I find that some of the younger nurses eat crisps etc, they do not seem interested in eating a healthy diet so many of them do not know how to cook. Crisps and bought sandwiches cost far more than a salad or similar made at home. Its all about being organised.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Anonymous | 2-Oct-2013 1:58 pm

    You have a desk? Hmm. And time to eat lunch apparently.

    For some, it's about a bit more than simply being organised. Most nurses don't have a desk to sit at as they are too busy actually looking after patients in desk free zones.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • It is so easy to blame your lack of money, lack of canteen, lack of time for poor food choices. There is always an excuse. Save money, make your own food and take it with you. That way you can make healthy choices.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I take healthy meals to work every day. I bring all my meals and drinks for a 12 hour shift in cool bags with ice packs, because we have no fridge. I have a very busy life in and out of work and it takes time and effort. But it would be nice to have the time and choice to go to a canteen. I get incredibly p*ssed off with the 'holier than thou' attitudes of those who appear to be comfortable with the lack of facilities and time most of us deal with at work and file it under 'excuses'.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • "Majority of nurses say they are overweight"

    No sh*t Sherlock! If you ask the majority of women if they think they could do with shedding a few pounds, you'll get the same answer. Nursing is primarily a female dominated profession. I wouldn't have expected any other conclusion from such a small and not very robust survey.

    Much more important are the issues raised by Anonymous | 3-Oct-2013 11:02 pm. Why do we accept working conditions which do not provide the facilities or indeed sufficient opportunity for proper, nutritious staff rest breaks? What the excuse for that, Susan Mackinnon | 3-Oct-2013 7:22 pm? Should we blame you because you are one of those who appears to think that blaming staff is easier than speaking out against lack of time and decent facilities?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I'm not Susan but it often strikes me reading these posts that we are so quick to criticise eachother, perhaps if we put that energy instead into collectively speaking up about poor facilities we might get more results. There will always be some people who put up with things or find a way to work round it by bringing in healthy food but that's their choice.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • i wish i could have my job back. I was slim when i was working and rushing round all day. i put the kg on when I retired and don't get all this exercise anymore and spend more time at the computer which was only just being introduced when I left.

    my only concern at work was the long term effects of shift patterns and being unable to eat and sleep regularly. we had five different shifts which could be worked in the space of one (84-hour fortnight) week which didn't do much harm at the time.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Anonymous | 5-Oct-2013 8:59 am

    Have you and your colleagues collectively spoken up for better facilities? Or do you choose to just go your own disparate ways? Everyone here has a right to be critical and disagree with one another. Consensus will never be arrived at if people can't express differing opinions. It amazes me that nurses are happy to tolerate dreadful working conditions and appalling patient care but get miffed because someone criticises someone else.

    Anonymous | 5-Oct-2013 9:15 am

    "we had five different shifts which could be worked in the space of one (84-hour fortnight) week which didn't do much harm at the time."

    There is plenty of available research on the the cumulative and devastating health impact and considerable amount of harm to nurses and others who work such shift patterns.

    Unsuitable or offensive?


  • Anonymous | 5-Oct-2013 9:15 am


    if you wish to believe all the research!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Anonymous | 5-Oct-2013 12:09 pm

    Why wouldn't you?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

View results 10 per page | 20 per page | 50 per page

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment.

newsletterpromo