The study, by the University of Sheffield, identified the six groups as: young males who were heavy drinkers, middle aged individuals who were unhappy and anxious, older people who despite living with physical health conditions were happy, younger healthy females, older affluent healthy adults and individuals with very poor health.

The study, led by Dr Mark Green from the University's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), concluded that those who have a BMI of 30 or over fit into one of the six groups and strategies to successfully tackle weight loss should be tailored according to which group they fall into.

"Policies designed to tackle obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles often target individuals just because they are obese. But a focus on just the group as a whole is not very efficient," Green said.

"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," he said.

Researchers suggested messages about alcohol reduction could help tackle obesity in young adults while for middle aged individuals who are unhappy and anxious an intervention involving increasing exercise mixed with psycho-social counselling could be beneficial.

Young healthy females may not need any intervention, researchers said.

For those in the poorest health group the study showed advice surrounding exercise may not be reasonable and much more modest goals may be needed and for the affluent healthy elderly weight loss could be a priority.

Researchers used data from the Yorkshire Health Study which included 4,144 obese individuals.

The findings are published in the Journal of Public Health.

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