By Joe Leogue
More than one in five nine-year-olds in Ireland are either overweight or obese, and only a quarter meet the recommended daily level of activity for children, according to a major longitudinal study.
The ‘Growing up in Ireland’ study, which has tracked the progress of two groups of children since 2007, also discovered that a higher proportion of children from lower-income families are overweight or obese compared to those from the highest income group.
It found that 77% of mothers of nine-year-olds reported that their child did not have a longstanding condition, illness or disability.
Just over one in 10 (11%) said their child had a condition but were not hampered by it.
A similar number (10%) had a condition and were considered to be hampered to some extent, and 2% said their child had a condition and were hampered severely.
The most common reported long-standing conditions were respiratory conditions, such as asthma, mental and behavioural issues, and skin conditions.
The percentage of children hampered by a longstanding condition increased with age and has been higher for boys than girls at each age.
For boys, this figure rose from 6% of three-year-olds to 16% of nine-year-olds, and went from 4% of girls aged three to 9% of nine-year-old girls.
Dorothy Watson from the ESRI said the finding on the low rate of meeting the physical activity targets and evidence of poorer outcomes for children in socially-disadvantaged families are “areas of concern”.
Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone said the findings provide important insights into the lives of nine-year-olds.
“While most nine-year-olds are doing well there are also areas of concern which will require action,” she said.
“The evidence of inequalities, with some children from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds doing less well in a number of areas, does require attention.