New data shows rise in obesity prevalence among reception-aged children in 2018-19

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 per cent.

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 analyzed 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, 10.0% 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 (1.0%).

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.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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