Almost a fifth of nine-year-olds overweight, ESRI finds

Young children in lower-income families twice as likely to be overweight, study suggests

Only one-quarter of nine-year-olds reached the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of daily physical activity, the Growing Up in Ireland study found. Photograph: iStock

Only one-quarter of nine-year-olds reached the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of daily physical activity, the Growing Up in Ireland study found. Photograph: iStock

 

Girls are more likely to be obese than boys by the age of nine, according to a new study from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The Growing Up in Ireland study examined problems facing children aged nine, and found most nine-year-olds were not overweight (78 per cent), however 17 per cent were overweight and five per cent were obese.

The study found at age nine, girls were more likely than boys to be overweight or obese (23 per cent vs 21 per cent).

Children in families with lower incomes were more likely to be overweightwith a rate of 32 per cent in the lowest income group compared with 14 per cent of children in the highest income group.

Only one-quarter of nine-year-olds reached the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of physical activity of 60 minutes every single day.

Boys were more likely to reach the amount of exercise required, with 28 per cent reaching the target compared with 22 per cent of girls.

There were no differences by income and mother’s education in meeting the 60 minutes of physical activity every day – 25 per cent of all groups meet the target.

However, those in more socially advantaged families were likely to be closer to the target. Some 26 per cent of those in the highest-income category were physically active on five to six days per week, compared with only 20 per cent in the lowest-income category.

Mothers reported that 23 per cent of nine-year-olds had an online profile with more boys (26 per cent ) having one, compared with 21 per cent of girls.

Boys’ profiles were largely related to computer gaming and girls’ more often related to social media.

Most mothers reported having rules to manage their children’s screen time, including rules about content (71 per cent ), the total time spent on devices (69 per cent ) and the time of day the child used the device (59 per cent).

Just under 60 per cent of mothers reported engaging the child in alternative activities to reduce screen time.

Meanwhile, the report found there had been a big improvement since 2013 in ability of families to make ends meet – but the rising tide was not lifting all equally.

The report noted this group of nine-year-olds spent many of their early years in a period of great economic uncertainty, “when Ireland was in the depths of the great recession.”

Levels of financial stress in the families of nine-year-olds were much higher in one-parent families (27 per cent) than two-parent families (10 per cent) had difficulties making ends meet.

The report will be launched by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone at the 10th Annual Growing Up in Ireland Research Conference on Thursday.