News and events

News

Kid on scales

Underprivileged children used to be undernourished – now they’re at risk of being obese

Children from disadvantaged families are at greater risk of being overweight compared to those from more affluent backgrounds, a new study has found, but this hasn’t always been the case.

Childhood weight and height data from the last 65 years shows that youngsters born after the Second World War exhibited the opposite physical traits, with underprivileged children being shorter and lighter than their larger, socially-higher counterparts.

Over time, this disparity has reversed so that lower socio-economic groups are now heavier.

The paper, Socioeconomic inequalities in children’s weight reversed in the UK between 1953 and 2015, has been published in The Lancet Public Health journal.

Co-author Dr Will Johnson, of Loughborough University, said: “In this new paper, we brought in measures of socio-economic position to investigate how inequalities in childhood weight, height, and BMI have changed between 1953 and 2015.

“It used to be that lower socio-economic groups were shorter and weighed less, on average, than higher socio-economic groups.

“But over the last six decades, the inequality in childhood height has narrowed, which is a good thing, but the inequality in childhood weight has reversed, such that lower socio-economic groups are now heavier and have increased risk of obesity.”

The authors say that these trends highlight the powerful influence that the obesogenic environment has had on socioeconomically disadvantaged children, and the failure of decades of previous policies to prevent obesity and related socioeconomic inequalities.

Lead author Dr David Bann, from University College London (UCL), said: “Our findings illustrate a need for new effective policies to reduce obesity and its socioeconomic inequality in children in the UK – previous policies have not been adequate, and existing policies are unlikely to be either.

“Without effective interventions, childhood BMI inequalities are likely to widen further throughout adulthood, leading to decades of adverse health and economic consequences.”

The study included data for children born in England, Scotland and Wales from four longitudinal birth cohort studies beginning in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2001.

Some 22,500 children were assessed at the age of seven years old, 34,873 were assessed at age 11, and 26,128 were assessed at age 15.

At the ages of seven, 11 and 15 years old, the children’s height and weight were measured, and BMI was calculated.

The father’s occupation was used as a marker of each child’s socioeconomic position, and the association between socioeconomic position and weight gain from childhood to adolescence was also analysed.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 18/43

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world to study sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings and top in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 6th in the Guardian University League Table 2018, 7th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018 and 10th in The UK Complete University Guide 2018. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

 

Categories