More than one in five of the nine-year-olds in Ireland is either overweight or obese, with only one quarter reaching the recommended daily level of activity for children, according to major longitudinal studies.
The "Growing Up in Ireland" study, which followed the progress of two groups of children since 2007, also found that a larger proportion of children from low-income families are overweight or obese compared to those from the highest-earning group.
- The study found that:
- 78% of nine-year-olds did not have an overweight; 17% were overweight and 5% obese;
- Girls were more likely than boys 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 one quarter of nine-year-olds report that they are physically active for at least 60 minutes each day – the World Health Organization recommends the level of activity for children;
- The level of compliance with the recommended level is higher in boys than in girls (28% compared to 22%);
- 26% of those in the highest income category were physically active for five to six days a week, compared to only 20% in the category with the lowest incomes.
It found that 77% of mothers of nineteen years report that their child has no lasting state, illness or disability.
More than one in 10 (11%) said that their child has a condition but is not an obstacle.
A similar number (10%) had a condition and was somewhat obstructed, while 2% said that their child had a condition and was severely obstructed.
The most frequent predicted long-term conditions were respiratory conditions such as asthma, mental and behavioral problems, and skin conditions.
The percentage of children who are aggravated by a prolonged condition increased with age and was higher in boys than girls at any age.
For boys, this figure increased from 6% of three-year-olds to 16% of nine years, from 4% of girls aged 3 to 9% of nine-year-olds.
Dorothy Watson of ESRI said that the finding of a low level of achievement of the goals of physical activity and evidence of poor results for children in socially vulnerable families was "problematic areas".
Minister for Children and Youth Katherine Zappone said that the findings provide an important insight into the lives of the nine-year-olds.
"While most nine-year-olds feel well, there are also issues that will require action," she said.
"Evidence of inequality in which some children from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds have a worse position in many areas requires attention.