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25% boys, 20% girls overweight: THL

Published : 10 Sep 2020, 21:41

  DF Report

Press Release Photo by THL.

One in every four boys and almost one in every five girls is at least overweight, according to a new statistic published by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Children and young people are defined as overweight (incl. obese) if they measure at least 25kg/m2 on the age and sex adjusted body mass index (ISO-BMI1), said a THL press release on Thursday.

In 2019, 27% of boys and 17% of girls aged 2–16 were at least overweight.

In the same year, 8% of boys and 4% of girls aged 2–16 were obese. Children and young people whose ISO-BMI is at least 30 kg/m2 are defined as obese.

Being overweight or obese was more prevalent in school-age children than in pre-schoolers. Across the age ranges, 24% of pre-school age boys, 28% of primary school age boys, and 29% of upper secondary school age boys were at least overweight. Similarly, 15% of pre-school age girls, 18% of primary school age girls, and 20% of upper secondary school age girls were at least overweight.

“Above all, overweight is affected by the fact that our living circumstances have become more conducive to weight gain. There is an abundance of highly calorific foods and drinks and our activity levels have decreased”, explained Päivi Mäki, Development Manager at THL.

“And it is concerning that overweight that begins in childhood all too often continues into adulthood. Obesity is also connected to the psychosocial and physical health and wellbeing of children and young people. Even during childhood, obesity may be associated with metabolic changes and cardiovascular risk factors, but these can be reduced through lifestyle changes,” Mäki said.

The THL study revealed clear differences in the levels of overweight and obesity in children and young people across the various hospital districts and municipalities in Finland. However, height and weight data was not available from every hospital district and municipality.

Of the hospital districts in which this data was available, overweight in boys and girls was most prevalent in Western Ostrobothnia Hospital District (LPSHP) and least prevalent in the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa (HUS).

The variation in the proportion of overweight (incl. obese) children and young people aged 2–16 by hospital district ranged from 24% to 35% in boys and from 15% to 22% in girls.

More comprehensive height and weight data on children and young people is needed. In 2019, 43% of 2–6-year-olds (n=120,505), 38% of 7–12-year-olds (n=142,771), and 36% of 13–16-year-olds (n=86,819) had height and weight information recorded in the Avohilmo system.

There have been problems in transferring height and weight data on children and young people into the Avohilmo system and there have not been significant improvements in the scope of this data since 2014. These problems stem from the fact that the patient record systems used in different municipalities do not all facilitate automatic data retrieval and transferral into the Avohilmo system.

“There is a disparity between Finnish municipalities in terms of monitoring the prevalence of overweight in children and young people. All municipalities should implement information system solutions that enable the transfer of height and weight data to the national archives and the wider use of this data. Up-to-date, comprehensive information is needed for service development and decision-making – at both the national and regional levels”, said Susanna Jääskeläinen, Senior Planning Officer at THL.