The prevalence of obesity has increased in Year 6 schoolchildren from 20.0% in 2016/17 to 20.1% in 2017/18, according to official statistics published by NHS Digital. This equates to 116,000 children being obese in 2017/18.

The earliest comparable figures date back to 2009/10, when obesity prevalence in Year 6 schoolchildren was 18.7%. This is an increase of 1.4 percentage points over eight years.

The National Child Measurement Programme, England - 2017/18 showed that obesity prevalence for reception-aged children remained similar at 9.5% (58,000 children) in both 2016/17 and 2017/18.

This is a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from the earliest comparable year in 2006/07 when obesity prevalence in reception-aged children stood at 9.9%.

Statistics also show that 34.3% of year 6 children and 22.4% of reception children were either overweight or obese in 2017/18.

The proportion of underweight children was higher in year 6 (1.4%) than in reception (1.0%).

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) 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.

Regional data included in the 2017/18 report show how obesity prevalence varies by local authority. This ranged from Kingston-upon-Thames at 4.9% to 14.4% in Knowsley for reception year.

Year 6 obesity prevalence ranged from 11.4% in Richmond upon Thames to 29.7% in Barking and Dagenham.

The report also showed:

  • 4.2% of year 6 schoolchildren and 2.4% of children in reception were classed as severely obese in 2017/18
  • Obesity prevalence for children living in the most deprived areas was more than double that of those living in the least deprived areas. Reception age obesity prevalence ranged from 5.7% in the least deprived to 12.8% in the most deprived, and in year 6 this ranged from 11.7% to 26.8%
  • The difference in obesity prevalence between children attending schools in the most and least deprived areas has increased over time. In 2017/18 the difference for reception was 6.0 percentage points, compared to 4.5 percentage points in 2006/07. The equivalent figures for year 6 were 13.5 percentage points in 2017/18 against 8.5 percentage points in 2006/07. In year 6 this deprivation gap has grown more quickly for boys than girls
  • Obesity prevalence was higher for boys in both age groups. In reception, 9.9% of boys and 9.1% of girls were classified as obese. In year 6, this was 22.2% of boys and 18.0% of girls respectively
  • The prevalence of underweight children was higher for boys in reception (1.3% compared to 0.7% for girls) but higher for girls in year 6 (1.6% compared to 1.2% for boys).

Read the full report here.