Intended for healthcare professionals


A third of children finishing primary school in England are overweight or obese

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 13 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8488
  1. Krishna Chinthapalli
  1. 1BMJ

Almost a fifth of 10 and 11 year old children are obese, and a third are above a healthy weight, a survey of schoolchildren in England has found.1

The report by the NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre found that the proportion of overweight and obese children of this age had risen slightly from 33.4% in 2010-11 to 33.9% in 2011-12. The prevalence of obesity varied significantly with social deprivation, from 13.7% in the least deprived areas to 24.3% in the most deprived. Other factors associated with obesity were male sex, black ethnicity, and living in urban areas.

Additionally, over a fifth of 4 and 5 year old children were overweight or obese, and this was unchanged from 2011. The prevalence of obesity doubled from 9.5% in 4 and 5 year olds to 19.2% in 10 and 11 year olds.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the information centre, said, “The figures show that the proportion of year 6 children who are either overweight or obese appears to be still increasing slightly.” He added that the data were “the most robust snapshot of obesity levels among children in England.”

The findings were part of the annual national childhood measurement programme and were based on measurements of height and weight of over a million pupils attending the first year (reception) and final year (year 6) of primary schools in 2011-12. Body mass index was then calculated and standardised for age and sex, with values over the 85th and 95th centiles derived from a 1990 reference population classified as overweight and obese, respectively.

Anna Soubry, public health minister, responded in a statement, “Being overweight can do serious damage to our health, so we must reduce levels in children to give them the best start in life. That is why we are already taking action to encourage families to eat healthily and get active.”

Others agreed with the importance of tackling childhood obesity. Graham Rowan, chairman of the Obesity Management Association, said, “It is vital to take action now to work with children and parents to educate and support them to change behaviour. Eighty per cent of obese children go on to become obese adults—this is a ticking time bomb.”

Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow public health minister, said, “Action on obesity needs to include local authorities using their powers to control the numbers of fast food shops, particularly around schools. We must also see much more work to maintain nutritional standards and to educate young people about nutrition and cooking basic foods.”


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8488


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