Obesity prevalence among reception-aged schoolchildren in England increased between 2017–18 and 2018–19, new statistics from NHS Digital show.
The National Child Measurement Programme, England – 2018–19 report, published today, shows that the prevalence of obesity in four and five-year-olds rose from 9.5% in 2017–18 to 9.7% in 2018–19. This equates to 58,000 children.
This is a decrease of 0.2 percentage points from the earliest comparable year in 2006–07 when obesity prevalence in reception-aged children stood at 9.9%.
Among year 6 pupils, who are aged 10 and 11, obesity prevalence was 20.2% in 2018–19 (121,000 children). This is similar to the level in 2017–18, when it was 20.1%.
The earliest comparable figures for year 6 pupils date back to 2009–10 when obesity prevalence was 18.7%. This is an increase of 1.5 percentage points over nine years.
The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) – overseen by Public Health England and analysed and reported by NHS Digital – measures the height and weight of over one million children in England annually and provides robust data on the number of children in reception and year 6 who are underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese or severely obese.
In 2018–19, 22.6% of reception children and 34.3% of year 6 children were either overweight or obese.
The report also shows:
- Around three quarters of reception children were a healthy weight (76.5%). In year 6 it was around two-thirds (64.3%).
- Severe obesity prevalence was higher in year 6 (4.4%) compared to reception (2.4%).
- The proportion of underweight children was higher in year 6 (1.4%) than in reception (1.0%).
In both age groups, obesity prevalence was higher for boys than for girls. For reception-age children, 10% of boys were obese compared to 9.4% of girls. Among year 6 pupils, 22.5% of boys were obese compared to 17.8% of girls.
Obesity prevalence was at least double for children living in the most deprived areas compared to those living in the least deprived areas. In reception, 13.3% in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 5.9% in the least deprived. Severe obesity prevalence was almost four times as high in the most deprived areas (3.9%) than the least deprived areas (1%).
In year 6 schoolchildren, the proportion who were obese ranged from 26.9% of those living in the most deprived areas to 11.4% in the least deprived. Severe obesity prevalence was over four times as high (7.1% and 1.5%, respectively).
The gap in obesity prevalence between pupils attending schools in the most and least deprived areas has increased over time in both age groups. Between 2006–07 and 2018–19, this rose by 2.1 percentage points for reception children and 5.4 percentage points for year 6 pupils.
Regional data by local authority
Obesity prevalence among reception-aged children ranged from 5.4% in Richmond upon Thames to 14.2% in Knowsley. In year 6, the prevalence of obesity ranged from 10.7% in Richmond upon Thames to 29.6% in Barking and Dagenham.