According to the National Child Measurement Programme, obesity rates in reception age children jumped from 9.9% to 14.4% over a single year that consisted of repeated lockdowns and restrictions, meaning that one in seven children begin primary school classified as obese. Meanwhile, for children in their last year of primary school, the obesity rate leapt from 21% to 25.5%. The Telegraph has more.
Experts said the figures were “alarming” and showed Covid lockdowns had a devastating impact on children’s health, because many spent more time snacking and less time exercising as a result of being confined to their homes.
Children as young as two could now get diet coaches as part of a national obesity drive, the head of the NHS said on Tuesday.
For those aged 10 and 11, who are in their last year of primary school, obesity prevalence increased from 21% to 25.5%.
Overall, 27.7% of pupils were overweight or obese by the age of five, compared with 23% the year before.
The statistics for the 2020/21 academic year showed that by the end of primary school, 41% of children are either overweight or obese, which is up from 35.2% the year before.
The statistics also show far higher rates of obesity among boys compared with girls by year six, with 29.2% of boys obese compared to 21.7% of girls.
Dr. Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “this sharp increase in obesity levels across childhood is alarming.
“While lockdown may have been a key factor, we mustn’t assume that this year’s results are an aberration since there may be other factors, including mental health difficulties, which will take time to address.”
Officials said that the volume of data for 2020/21 was more limited than that for 2019/20.
The scheme normally weighs and measures children throughout the school year. But with schools closed for much of the pandemic, officials were only able to restart the programme in March 2021, a year after lockdown.
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