About 70% of men consider themselves overweight according to a new survey for the Men's Health Forum for Men's Health Week which starts today (Monday).

This is slightly more than the official figure which puts 65% of men in the 'unhealthy weight' category (defined as a body mass index over 25), it said.

National Men's Health Week aims to raise awareness of the increase in male weight problems. Currently, some 14,000 male deaths a year are directly attributable to obesity. This figure is set to increase as the problem escalates, precipitating a devastating cost, both in terms of those affected and the health service.

About two thirds of men (65%) currently have a body mass index of more than 25 (the conventional indicator of an unhealthy, excess weight) compared to just over half of women (55%). Projections for 2010, based on present trends, show that three quarters of men (75%) will be overweight or obese compared to just under two thirds of women (64%).

A key issue the forum hopes to highlight is the difference in the way men and women approach weight problems in terms of their attitudes to diet, exercise and body image, and their behaviour. Currently, health messages about weight loss are almost all geared to women, but this approach does not connect with men.

In the survey of a representative sample of 1,028 men aged 16-64 carried out for the Men's Health Forum for Men's Health Week 70% of men in the survey stated they were overweight, and of the men who saw themselves as 'quite a lot overweight', 'obese' or 'seriously obese', 73% believed it was because of their sedentary lifestyle.

Almost one in five (18%) of the overweight men surveyed said that their weight had caused them to be out of breath when walking. Only 39% of the men who believed themselves to be overweight said that long-term health risks would be a motivator for weight loss. This was striking, especially considering that more overweight men (43%) said that physical appearance/reduced ability to 'chat someone up' would motivate them to lose weight.

Only a third of overweight men would be motivated to lose weight even if being overweight affected their sex life. Although a large majority of men (over 80%) know that being overweight is associated with heart disease and high blood pressure, fewer understand the links with other significant health problems. Only 63% know that being overweight is linked to diabetes and joint problems and just 32% are aware of the link with erection problems.

Over half of overweight men (53%) said they would not consider seeking help for their weight problem from their GP and 87% said they would not go to a slimming club.

"Men are often less well informed about nutrition and how to lose weight than women," said Dr Ian Banks, president of the Men's Health Forum. "To be effective, advice must to be tailored to men. Currently, health messages about weight loss are mostly geared to women, in ways that men don't connect with. Support for male weight loss has to be provided in a range of settings, such as the workplace and online, as well as through the GP practice."

Waist measurement is a key risk factor. Men tend to store excess weight around their waist (abdomen) but once a man's waist reaches 40 inches, the risk of becoming seriously ill increases dramatically. However, nearly a third of the men surveyed were not aware that a waist circumference of greater than 40" was a significant risk to health.

"Men need to be made more aware of the health implications of excess abdominal fat, or central obesity, and how to lose weight,' said Dr David Haslam, chair of the National Obesity Forum. "Reducing waist size alone can lead to significant improvements in health, so being able to notch in a belt can be a good and simple way of gauging healthy weight loss."