Schoolgirls more at risk of being overweight than boys

Study finds 20% of children in sixth class are obese, with higher rates in disadvantaged schools

The study found young girls in primary schools are more at risk of being overweight or obese than boys, but that the gap decreased as the children got older. Image: Getty

The study found young girls in primary schools are more at risk of being overweight or obese than boys, but that the gap decreased as the children got older. Image: Getty

 

Girls in primary schools in Ireland are more at risk of being overweight or obese than boys but this gap decreases as the children get older, according to a study released yesterday by the HSE.

When first round of the HSE’s ‘Childhood Obesity Surveillance’ was undertaken in 2008, 20 per cent of girls in first class were overweight, and just 13 per cent of boys.

When the research was repeated in 2012 over 24 per cent of girls were overweight or obese, and 14 per cent of boys.

The gender gap had evened out by the time the children reached sixth class, and 22 per cent of girls were overweight compared to 18 per cent of boys.

After a period of increases the most recent HSE obesity study also found the level of childhood obesity in Ireland has stopped rising.

In 2008, 2,630 schoolchildren in first class were surveyed and it was found that 16 per cent of students were either overweight or obese.

When schoolchildren in fourth class were studied in 2012, the number of children carrying excess weight was found to have increased to 20 per cent.

The most recent review of 4,909 schoolchildren in sixth class carried out in 2015, revealed the level of obesity remained at 20 per cent of children.

The HSE ‘Childhood Obesity Surveillance’ study found children in socio economically disadvantaged DEIS schools were more likely to suffer from obesity or be overweight than those in other schools.

The latest findings of the study from 2015 found that 32 per cent of children in DEIS schools were obese or overweight, compared to 18 per cent of children in other schools.

The study also found young girls in primary schools were more at risk of being overweight or obese than boys, but that the gap decreased as the children got older. When the first round of the study was undertaken in 2008, 20 per cent of girls in first class were overweight, and just 13 per cent of boys.

When the research was repeated in 2012 over 24 per cent of girls were overweight or obese, and 14 per cent of boys. The gender gap had evened out by the time the children reached sixth class, and 22 per cent of girls were overweight compared to 18 per cent of boys.

While the research found rising obesity levels among young children may be stabilising at an average of one in five, that is still “quite a high level” Sarah O’Brien, national leader of the HSE Healthy Eating programme said.

Speaking at the launch of the report the Minister of State for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said despite the promising findings, Ireland is “still on course to become the most obese nation in Europe, unless we take action now”.

The study was conducted by the HSE and the National Nutrition Surveillance Centre in University College Dublin.

Professor Cecily Kelleher, director of the Nutritional Surveillance centre said the findings “highlight the need to address the gap between better off and less advantaged children, and to focus on interventions that appeal to both girls and boys”.