The average woman’s waist measures 5cm (2in) more than the recommendation of 80cm (31.5in) or less. This puts the majority in the “high health risk” category.
The average waist to hip ratio has also increased, indicating that an apple body shape has become more common than the healthier “pear figure”.
Research suggests that excess weight around the waist increases the chances of breast cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It has also been linked to the disruption of ovarian function, which has consequences for fertility.
A survey of 54,000 people by Nuffield Health found that more than half of women had a body mass index (BMI) that exceeded the healthy 18-25 range. More than 16 per cent were classed as moderately or morbidly obese.
Body mass index is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in
The findings raise nationwide health concerns as the average waist size of women from every region of England and Scotland was in the danger zone.
Women’s waistlines were largest in the North and the Midlands, with an average of 87cm (34in), and the smallest were in London where women had an average measurement of almost 82cm (32in).
Dr Davina Deniszczyc, professional head of physicians and diagnostics at Nuffield Health, said: “Whilst waist size may seem like a cosmetic issue, this is not about women fitting into their skinny jeans, rather it is an important indicator of overall health and wellbeing, particularly when taken into account with other health measurements.
“Experts are increasingly finding central (or abdominal) obesity, measured through waist size, to be a better indicator of obesity than BMI.
“The results for women highlight a worrying problem as fat being stored around the waist can contribute to significant health issues, such as breast cancer and infertility.”
Of the women who were measured in the study, half were aged between 26 and 46.