Worldwide, childhood overweight and obesity have increased dramatically since the 1990’s – and unfortunately, the United Kingdom is no exception. In fact, childhood obesity rates in the UK are among the highest in the world, making it a prominent public health issue.
Data from the recent National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP 2016/17), one of the most comprehensive childhood measurement programs in the country, indicates that childhood obesity is present in almost 10% of young children (age 4-5), with further 13% classified as overweight. Alarmingly, in older age groups the proportions are even higher – by the age of 10-11, 20% of kids are obese, and further 14% – overweight. In contrast, NCMP 2009/10 showed lower rates of childhood overweight and obesity. For example, the prevalence of childhood obesity in 2009/10 was 18.7% – a devastating 1.3% lower than today.
In other words, currently over a third of year 6 UK children are experiencing weight issues, which can have devastating consequences for both physical and mental health, as well as the health of future generations (research shows children of overweight and obese parents are also more prone to accumulating excess body fat).
The trend carries over to teenage years, with research suggesting that, for instance, 20% of 14-year-olds in the UK are obese, and a further 15% are overweight.
It’s important to note that being overweight/obese in the NCMP and most other similar programmes are defined in terms of the body mass index (BMI), which essentially measures a relationship between one’s height and weight. According to the NHS, although BMI “is a good way of finding out whether a child is a healthy weight”, it also has downsides such as not distinguishing “between excess fat, muscle, or bone”. However, even if the figures above are not to be treated as exact, the overall upward trend in childhood overweight and obesity is beyond alarming.
If you’re worried that your child might be overweight or obese, contact a health professional today for a detailed assessment.