20% of nine-year-olds overweight

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.

    The study found that:

  • 78% of nine-year-olds were not overweight; 17% were overweight and 5% were obese;
  • Girls were more likely than boys to be overweight/obese (23% vs. 21%);
  • 32% of children in the lowest income group were overweight or obese compared to 14% in the highest income group;
  • Only one-quarter of nine-year-olds reported being physically active for at least 60 minutes every single day — the World Health Organisation recommended level of activity for children;
  • The rate of meeting this recommended level is higher for boys than girls (28% vs. 22%);
  • 26% of those in the highest-income category were physically active on five to six days per week, compared to only 20% in the lowest-income category.

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.

Early intervention and prevention and a whole of Government approach are needed to tackle child poverty.

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