Obesity, anxiety and asthma in children on the rise

Childhood obesity tops most paediatricians’ agendas

Two out of three paediatricians say they treat more overweight or obese children in their clinics than they did two years ago. Photograph: Getty Images

Two out of three paediatricians say they treat more overweight or obese children in their clinics than they did two years ago. Photograph: Getty Images

Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 01:00

Paediatricians are seeing more children with sleep problems and asthma as the incidence of obesity continues to increase, a new survey shows.

Two out of three paediatricians say they treat more overweight or obese children in their clinics than they did two years ago, and 90 per cent say childhood obesity is at the top of their agenda.

Over half of the paediatricians who are seeing more children with weight issues also reported a rise in sleep problems, while 46 per cent said asthma cases were also increasing.

The survey of Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Ireland members found 60 per cent of them see more children with mental-health problems than they did two years ago, with 79 per cent reporting a rise in cases of anxiety, 37 per cent reporting more self harm and 24 per cent seeing more children with depression.

Over 90 per cent of paediatricians said they were worried children with mental-health problems could not get treatment quickly enough. This was blamed on underfunded services (89 per cent), a lack of early intervention (38 per cent) and rota vacancies (33 per cent).

Lack of awareness

“Getting key public-health messages out to families early is essential if we are to reduce the numbers of children suffering obesity and mental-health related illness,” said Dr Hilary Cass, president of the Royal College, which has members on both sides of the Border and an office in Belfast. “Obesity and mental health are two major priorities . . . to be addressed.”

A separate opinion poll commissioned by the college in Northern Ireland showed two-thirds of the public are worried about childhood obesity.

It also revealed a lack of awareness, with 57 per cent saying it is cheaper to buy unhealthy food, one-third unaware of how physically active under-fives should be and a third saying they are too busy to cook healthy food for their children.

Overall, 27 per cent of children are classed as overweight or obese in Ireland – double what it was 15 years ago.