- Analysis on severely obese children included in child measurement report for first time
The prevalence of obesity has increased in Year 6 schoolchildren from 20.0 per cent in 2016/17 to 20.1 per cent in 2017/18, according to official statistics published by NHS Digital1 today. This equates to 116,000 children being obese in 2017/182.
The earliest comparable figures date back to 2009/10 when obesity prevalence in Year 6 schoolchildren was 18.7 per cent. This is an increase of 1.4 percentage points over eight years.
The National Child Measurement Programme, England - 2017/182 showed that obesity prevalence for reception-aged children remained similar at 9.5 per cent (58,000 children) in both 2016/17 and 2017/18.
This is a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from the earliest comparable year in 2006/07 when obesity prevalence in reception-aged children stood at 9.9 per cent.
Statistics also show that 34.3 per cent of year 6 children and 22.4 per cent of reception children were either overweight or obese in 2017/18.
The proportion of underweight children was higher in year 6 (1.4 per cent) than in reception (1.0 per cent).
The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)3 measures the height and weight of over one million children in England annually and provides robust data on the number of children in reception and year 6 who are underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese or severely obese.
Regional data included in the 2017/18 report show how obesity prevalence varies by local authority4. This ranged from Kingston-upon-Thames at 4.9 per cent to 14.4 per cent in Knowsley for reception year5.
Year 6 obesity prevalence ranged from 11.4 per cent in Richmond upon Thames to 29.7 per cent in Barking and Dagenham.
The report also showed:
- 4.2 per cent of year 6 schoolchildren and 2.4 per cent of children in reception were classed as severely obese in 2017/18
- obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas6 was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas. Reception age obesity prevalence ranged from 5.7 per cent in the least deprived to 12.8 per cent in the most deprived, and in year 6 this ranged from 11.7 per cent to 26.8 per cent
- the difference in obesity prevalence between children attending schools in the most and least deprived areas7 has increased over time. In 2017/18 the difference for reception was 6.0 percentage points, compared to 4.5 percentage points in 2006/07. The equivalent figures for year 6 were 13.5 percentage points in 2017/18 against 8.5 percentage points in 2006/07. In year 6 this deprivation gap has grown more quickly for boys than girls
- obesity prevalence was higher for boys in both age groups. In reception, 9.9 per cent of boys and 9.1 per cent of girls were classified as obese. In year 6, this was 22.2 per cent of boys and 18.0 per cent of girls respectively
- the prevalence of underweight children was higher for boys in reception (1.3 per cent compared to 0.7 per cent for girls) but higher for girls in year 6 (1.6 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent for boys)
Read the full report here
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Notes to editors
- NHS Digital is the national information and technology provider for the health and care system. Our team of information analysis, technology and project management experts create, deliver and manage the crucial digital systems, services, products and standards upon which health and care professionals and citizens depend. During the 2017/18 financial year, NHS Digital published 275 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. The Health and Social Care Information Centre is a non-departmental body created by statute, also known as NHS Digital. We provide ‘Information and Technology for better health and care’. Find out more about our role and remit at www.digital.nhs.uk
- The National Child Measurement Programme, overseen by Public Health England but analysed and reported by NHS Digital, collects height and weight measurements of children in reception (aged 4-5 years) and year 6 (aged 10-11 years) primarily in mainstream state-maintained schools in England. Any data collected from independent or special schools are excluded from this analysis. See "Coverage" in appendix B of the full report for more details. We only report on a change where it is statistically significant.
- The National Child Measurement Programme was launched in the 2005/06 academic year and now holds twelve years of reliable data. 2006/07 is the first year that the data are considered to be robust due to the low participation in 2005/06. There was a 95 per cent participation rate in 2017/18. 2009/10 is the first year that the obesity prevalence figures are robust for year 6 schoolchildren.
- Local authority data reported here are by the upper tier local authority where the child lives. Data are also provided in the report for lower tier local authorities.
- Torbay had a particularly low participation rate, so their data should be used with extreme caution. They did have the lowest obesity prevalence rate in year 6 but this is likely to be an underestimate. Please see tables 8 and 9 of the report: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/national-child-measurement-programme/2017-18-school-year
- Deprivation is based on the postcode of the child.
- Deprivation is based on postcode of the school in this comparison as postcode of the child was of poor quality in the early years of the NCMP.