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Obesity prevalence increases in reception age primary school children

19 October 2017

*NHS Digital must be quoted as the source of these figures

*Regional data available within this report

The prevalence of obesity has risen for the second successive year from 9.3 per cent in 2015-16 to 9.6 per cent in 2016-17 for children in reception.2

Obesity prevalence was more than twice as high among children in year 6 (20.0 per cent, similar to 2015/163) than in reception age children, according to the National Child Measurement Programme, England - 2016/17 school year, published today by NHS Digital.

More than one in three children (34.2 per cent) in year 6 were either overweight or obese in 2016-17. Almost one in four children (22.6 per cent) were overweight or obese in reception year.

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP)4 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 or obese.

Regional data included in the 2016-17 report show how obesity prevalence varies by local authority5. This ranged from Kingston-upon-Thames at 4.8 per cent, to 13.5 per cent in Wolverhampton for reception year.

Year 6 obesity prevalence ranged from 11.3 per cent in Rutland to 29.2 per cent in Barking and Dagenham.

The 2016-17 report also showed:

  • obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived6 areas was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas. Reception age ranged from 5.8 per cent in the least deprived to 12.7 per cent in the most deprived and in year 6 this ranged from 11.4 per cent to 26.3 per cent
  • the difference in obesity prevalence7 between children attending schools in the most and least deprived areas has also increased over time. In 2016-17 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 13.4 percentage points in 2016-17 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, 10.0 per cent of boys and 9.2 per cent of girls were classified as obese. In year 6, this was 21.8 per cent of boys and 18.1 per cent of girls respectively
  • the prevalence of underweight children was higher for boys in reception (1.2 per cent compared to 0.7 per cent for girls) but higher for girls in year 6 (1.5 per cent compared to 1.2 per cent for boys). The proportion of underweight children was also higher in year 6 (1.3 per cent) than in reception (1.0 per cent)

Read the full report here.


Notes to editors

1. 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 depend. During the 2016/17 financial year, NHS Digital published 292 statistical reports. Our vision is to harness the power of information and technology to make health and care better. Find out more about our role and remit at

2. 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 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.

3. There has been a change in measurement since 2015/16 but is not statistically significant, and therefore cannot be counted as a true increase.

4. The National Child Measurement Programme was launched in the 2005/06 academic year and now holds eleven 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 2016-17.

5. 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.

6. Deprivation is based on the postcode of the child.

7. 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.

Last edited: 30 July 2018 4:30 pm