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Substantial increase in childhood obesity since 1984


Prevalence and trends in overweight and obesity in three cross sectional studies of British children, 1974-94

The prevalence of obesity in children is low, but it has increased substantially since 1984, according to a study in this week's BMJ.

Using data from the national study of health and growth, researchers from King's College London identified 10,414 boys and 9,737 girls in England and 5,385 boys and 5,219 girls in Scotland aged 4 to 11 years in total for 1974, 1984 and 1994. They calculated the percentage of children who were overweight or obese each year, for each sex and country.

From 1974 to 1984 there was little overall change. From 1984 to 1994 overweight increased from 5.4% to 9% in English boys and from 6.4% to 10% in Scottish boys. Values for girls were 9.3% to 13.5% in English girls and 10.4% to 15.8% in Scottish girls. The increase was greatest in the oldest age group (9-11 years) and the prevalence of obesity increased correspondingly.

Overweight in children is a serious public health problem in Britain and these results form a base from which trends can be monitored, say the authors. The rising trends in children will almost certainly be reflected in increases in adult obesity and in associated adult illness, they conclude.



Sue Chinn, Reader in Medical Statistics, Department of Public Health Sciences, King's College London, UK Email:

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