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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, England, 2019

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Part 4: Childhood overweight and obesity

The main source for this part is the National Child Measurement Programme for England (NCMP) which includes nearly all children in reception year (aged 4-5) and year 6 (aged 10-11) . 95% of eligible children were measured in 2017/18.

Health Survey for England (HSE) also collects data on childhood obesity; covering all children aged 2-15, although as a sample it has much lower coverage than NCMP and therefore the estimates are less precise.

NCMP and HSE collect height and weight measurements to calculate BMI for each child. BMI (adjusted for age and gender) is recommended as a practical estimate of overweight and obesity in children as it takes into account different growth patterns in boys and girls at different ages.

BMI = Person’s weight (kg) / Person’s height (in metres)2

Each age and gender group needs its own level of classification and this section uses the British 1990 growth reference (UK90) to describe childhood overweight and obesity.


Overweight and obesity prevalence

Prevalence by year

The prevalence of obesity has increased in year 6 from 20.0% in 2016/17 to 20.1% in 2017/18. For reception it remained similar at 9.5% in 2017/181.

Over a longer time period, obesity prevalence is lower for reception compared to 2006/07 but higher for year 6 compared to 2009/102. Severe obesity prevalence is similar for reception but higher for year 6 over the same time periods.


Obesity prevalence by level of deprivation

There is a strong relationship between deprivation3 and obesity.

In both reception year and year 6, obesity prevalence was over twice as high in the most deprived areas than the least deprived areas.


Between 2006/07 and 2017/18 the gap between obesity prevalence for the most and least deprived areas has increased4

In reception year the gap increased by 1.6 percentage points, due to prevalence remaining similar in the most deprived areas but falling in the least deprived. In year 6 the gap increased by 5.0 percentage points, due to prevalence increasing in the most deprived areas but remaining similar in the least deprived.


Obesity prevalence by Local Authority

Obesity prevalence varied by Local Authority.

For reception year this ranged from 4.9% in Kingston upon Thames to 14.4% in Knowsley.

In year 6 the range was from 11.4% in Richmond upon Thames, to 29.7% in Barking and Dagenham.

Note the maps cannot be compared with each other due to the different ranges used.


1. The change from 9.6% in 2016/17 is not statistically significant.    

2. For year 6, comparisons are not possible with the first years of the NCMP (2006/07 to 2008/09) as obesity prevalence was an underestimate due to low participation. 

3. Deprivation level has been defined by the deprivation decile of the local super output area in which the child lives.

4. For analysis of deprivation over time, deprivation decile is based on postcode of the school in this chart as postcode of the child was of poor quality in the early years of the NCMP.

For more data/information on this section: 



Parents of overweight and obese children

Children’s BMI status by mother and father's BMI status

Based on data from 2016 and 2017 combined, children’s overweight and obesity was associated with that of their parents.

28% of children of obese mothers were also obese, compared with 17% of children whose mothers were overweight but not obese, and 8% of children whose mothers were neither overweight nor obese.


Similarly, 24% of children of obese fathers were themselves obese, compared with 14% of children whose fathers were overweight but not obese, and 9% of children whose fathers were neither overweight nor obese.


Parent's perception of child’s weight by child’s BMI status

In 2015 and 2016 but not in 2017, parents were asked to give their opinion on the weight of each of their children. Parents of overweight and obese children often thought that their child was the right weight.

The majority of children who were overweight but not obese were described as being about the right weight by their mothers (90%) and fathers (87%). Around half of parents of obese children (47% of mothers and 52% of fathers) also said their child was about the right weight.


For more data/information on this section: 

Last edited: 8 July 2021 5:15 pm