Changes to the nation's lifestyle needed to improve child health

RCPCH's Officer for Scotland, Professor Steve Turner, responds to Scottish's Government's 'Growing up in Scotland: overweight and obesity at age 10' report.

Scottish Government has analysed data from the Growing up in Scotland study to identify key risk factors associated with the development of overweight and obesity.

In summary, the Growing up in Scotland: overweight and obesity at age 10 report found:

  • 24% of six year olds are overweight, rising to 34% by age 10 
  • Children whose mothers are overweight or obese are significantly more likely to be overweight of obese themselves at age 10.
  • Higher screen time and irregular breakfast habits were associated with overweight and obesity. This is heightened when deprivation status is taken into account.
  • Children who have a TV in their bedroom were more likely to be overweight or obese.
  • Children who didn’t have the recommended amount of sleep were more likely to be overweight or obese.

In response to the publication of this report, Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said:

Losing or maintaining a healthy weight whatever your age is tough and the publication of today’s new report well documents this. It found that 24% of six year olds are overweight, and this figure rises to 34% by age 10. It found that an overweight or obese child is more likely to remain overweight or obese as they get older and this becomes more likely if a child is deprived. The Scottish government has committed to halving childhood obesity rates by 2030 but to meet his target, urgent changes to the nation’s lifestyle are required. Babies born today will be children in 2030 - we need to create healthy environments now if the children of 2030 are to be healthy.

We know there are many factors that contribute to someone being overweight or obese. Top spending confectionary, crisps and sugary drink brands spend over £143m a year on advertising their products and they do this because they know it results in sales. As this report identifies, children are more likely to be overweight if they have a television in their room and if they spend more time looking at screens. We know marketing makes children more likely to purchase the brands they see advertised and consume more of them - so that’s why we look to Westminster to protect children by urgently introducing a ban of junk food advertising on television and on-demand services before 9pm. However, looking closer to home, I urge local authorities in Scotland to introduce 20mph speed limits in built up areas in order to create safe and healthier environments for children to walk, cycle and play in.