More than one in five nine-year-olds in Ireland are overweight or obese, and only a quarter meet the recommended daily activity level for children, according to serious longitudinal tests.
The "Growing up in Ireland" study, which tracked the progress of two groups of children since 2007, also found that a higher proportion of children from lower income families are overweight or obese compared to those in the highest income groups.
- The research showed that:
- 78% of 9-year-olds were not overweight; 17% were overweight and 5% were obese;
- Girls more often than boys had overweight / obesity (23% vs. 21%);
- 32% of children in the lowest income group were overweight or obese compared to 14% in the highest income group;
- Only a quarter of 9-year-olds declared physical activity for at least 60 minutes each day – the World Health Organization recommended a level of activity for children;
- The rate of meeting this recommended level is higher for boys than girls (28% compared to 22%);
- 26% of people in the highest income category were physically active five to six days a week, compared to only 20% in the category of people with the lowest income.
It turned out that 77% of mothers of 9-year-olds stated that their child had no long-term condition, disease or disability.
Slightly more than one in 10 (11%) said that their child had a disease, but it was not difficult.
A similar number (10%) had a certain condition and was found to be somewhat hampered, and 2% say their child was ill and severely impaired.
The most frequently reported long-term conditions were respiratory diseases such as asthma, mental and behavioral disorders, and skin condition.
The percentage of children tied up by the long-term condition increased with age and was higher for boys than girls of any age.
In the case of boys, this number increased from 6% of three-year-olds to 16% of 9-year-olds and dropped from 4% of girls aged three to 9% of nine-year-old girls.
Dorothy Watson of ESRI stated that the low-achieving targets for physical activity and evidence of inferior results for children in disadvantaged families are "areas of concern".
Children's and Youth Minister Katherine Zappone said the findings provide important information on the lives of nine-year-olds.
"While the majority of nine year olds are well, there are also areas of interest that require action," she said.
"Proof of inequality, with some children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds that have worse results in many areas, needs attention.