For healthcare professionals only

Research Article

Prevalence of obesity in British children born in 1946 and 1958.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 286 doi: (Published 16 April 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;286:1237
  1. C S Peckham,
  2. O Stark,
  3. V Simonite,
  4. O H Wolff


    The prevalence of overweight at ages 7 and 11 years and in late adolescence was compared in two nationally representative cohorts of British children born in 1946 and 1958. Overweight was defined as weight that exceeded the standard weight for height, age, and sex by more than 20% (relative weight greater than 120%). The prevalence of overweight among 7 year olds born in 1958 was nearly twice that among those born in 1946. Changes in infant feeding practices, food supply, and level of physical activity might be responsible for this difference. By adolescence the prevalence of obesity in both cohorts had increased but the difference between cohorts had almost disappeared. Around 9% of adolescent girls and 7% of adolescent boys were overweight. If infant feeding practices have an influence on prevalence of overweight at 7 years the data from the two cohorts suggest that such an effect does not persist. In neither cohort was there a significant relation between the prevalence of obesity and social class in boys, but in girls the prevalence was higher among those from the lower socioeconomic groups. Correlation coefficients showing the strength of the relation between relative weights at different ages were remarkably similar for both cohorts. The risk of being obese later in childhood for those who had not been obese at the age of 7 was less than one in 10, whereas for those with a relative weight greater than 130% the risk exceeded six in 10.