Childhood Obesity Trend in the United Kingdom

Introduction

The issue of obesity has attracted many scholarly debates in the recent past due to its global spread. Obesity is a health aspect that is linked to being overweight and/or having excessive body fat. This research focuses on childhood obesity, which has become a public health menace in most countries today. Many factors, including sedentary lifestyles, the lack of exercise, and the consumption of junk foods, have played a huge role in influencing childhood obesity levels.

People who become obese at a young age and stay in this situation for a long characterize contemporary society. The trend of obesity is a concern in many societies since it poses a significant financial burden to families and the respective governments. Childhood obesity in the United Kingdom, which forms the setting for the current research, has attracted the interest of the National Health Service as well as the public. Hence, it is crucial to explore the current state of childhood obesity in this country.

Aims and Objectives

This research aims to investigate the trend of childhood obesity in the UK over the past decade. The goal is to uncover the current state of the public health issue to facilitate the development of necessary measures for managing it effectively. The selected objectives include:

  • Identifying the trend of childhood obesity in the UK within the last 10 years.
  • Finding out factors that influence this tendency.

Hypothesis

This research establishes two hypotheses, namely, the null hypothesis (H1) and the alternative hypothesis (H2).

  • H1. Cases of childhood obesity in the UK have been on the rise in the past 10 years.
  • H2. Cases of childhood obesity have remained stable over the last 10 decade.

Literature Review

Various resources published over the years provide valid information regarding the state of obesity in the UK. In a recent inquiry, van Jaarsveld and Gulliford (2015) use electronic healthcare records to investigate obesity trends among 370,544 children in England between 1994 and 2013. These researchers uncover that between 1994 and 2003, the prevalence of obesity among children in England increased by 8.1% annually while a 0.4% increase was recorded between 2004 and 2013. However, van Jaarsveld and Gulliford (2015) reveal that between 2004 and 2013, the 11-15-year-old group reported an increased prevalence of obesity compared to the 2-10-year-old cohort. Furthermore, most of the countries in Europe, including the UK, have experienced a rise in the number of childhood obesity cases.

In particular, Wijnhoven et al. (2013) conducted a study to investigate childhood obesity in 12 European countries by taking account of variations in terms of prevalence as well as gender. After studying a sample size of 168,832 children between the age of 6 and 9 years in Europe, Wijnhoven et al. (2013) found out that 18.4−42.5% of girls and 19.3−49.0% of boys reported cases of being overweight. Additionally, the childhood obesity prevalence extended from 4.6 to 17.3% among girls and 6.0 to 26.6% among males in this age group (Wijnhoven et al. 2013). These alarming cases of overweight and obese children in Europe have become a considerable public issue that needs to be addressed effectively to facilitate the realization of sustainable health for future generations.

Lobstein et al. (2015) reveal that in less than one generation, the world has recorded a substantial upsurge in the prevalence of childhood obesity. In particular, many children in the United Kingdom have become obese in the last three decades. Lobstein et al. (2015) argue that campaigns for energy-rich and nutrient-poor foods have had a considerable influence on the rising cases of childhood obesity in countries such as the UK and the U.S. As such, these researchers underline the need for protecting and promoting children’s health by improving the governance of food supply as well as food promotion.

In a different study, Wilkie et al. (2016) reveal that healthy diets also contribute to the development of obesity among children in the UK. However, according to these authors, unhealthy feeding does not contribute to obesity among children. They give an unexpected finding that the observed rising instances of obesity among young people in the UK may be an outcome of children observing healthy diets (Wilkie et al. 2016).

Based on their perspectives, Wilkie et al. (2016) believe that healthy feeding and increased screen time (ST) accelerate the chances of children developing obesity. In this respect, the work of Lobstein et al. (2015) regarding the role of consuming unhealthy foods in promoting childhood obesity contradicts the findings of Wilkie et al. (2016). Furthermore, Wilkie et al. (2016) identified the failure of children to engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) as the major trigger of the rising prevalence of obesity among children in the UK.

In a more recent study, Wilkie et al. (2018) uncover that physical activity (PA) intensities among children in the home and school settings play a considerable role in determining the prevalence of obesity in the UK. In particular, these researchers find out that schools that encourage engagement in MVPA reduce pupils’ chances of becoming overweight or obese. Conversely, learning centres that do not involve students in PAs usually record many cases of obesity among students (Wilkie et al. 2018). These authors attribute the current trend of obesity in the UK over the last 10 years to pupils’ reduced participation in physical activities.

Cetateanu and Jones (2014) argue that socioeconomically deprived populations in the UK have a greater chance of reporting heightened obesity cases among young people compared to communities residing in stable environments.

These researchers find out that financially deprived neighborhoods have many unhealthy food outlets that attract a significantly high number of children. This situation has led to the rising prevalence of childhood obesity in the UK, especially in lower social-class neighborhoods, since the consumption of fast foods among other unhealthy diets in such areas is high. Cetaceans and Jones’ (2014) study provides analogous findings, which reveal that higher social-class communities in the UK are linked to fewer instances of childhood obesity due to the absence of a significant number of outlets offering unhealthy foods. In this light, socioeconomic deprivation is a major trigger of the rising prevalence of childhood obesity in the UK.

Analysis of Findings

Various sources used in the literature review uncover the trend of obesity in the UK. As noted, this country has witnessed a rise in the number of cases of obesity among children, especially the 11-15-year-old group. This finding is in line with H1, which states that cases of childhood obesity have been on the rise in the UK over the past 10 years. Such a trend is alarming since it implies that future generations would find themselves in a worse public health situation. In the UK, the rising trend implies that children in modern society engage in lifestyles, which lead to the accumulation of unnecessary body fats, thereby becoming overweight and, consequently, obese.

Poor dietary habits among children from one of the major factors identified to contribute to the rising prevalence of childhood obesity in the UK. Food suppliers campaign for energy-rich and poor-nutrient foods that alter the normal growth of the body (Lobstein et al. 2015). Energy-rich foods and beverages constitute high levels of calories that surpass the amount required by the body to function normally.

Furthermore, companies in the fast-food sector lure children to consume unhealthy food products. Studies conducted by van Jaarsveld and Gulliford (2015) and Wijnhoven et al. (2013) have linked such poor feeding styles to the rising cases of obesity among children in the United Kingdom.

Such foods contain high levels of fats that may accumulate in the body of a young person over time. However, an interesting finding has been observed in the study by Wilkie et al. (2016). These authors regard the consumption of healthy foods among children in the UK as the leading cause of obesity, especially when they do not engage in physical activities or get adequate sleep. However, the contribution of detrimental diets on the development of childhood obesity is higher compared to the influence of healthy foods on the emergence of childhood obesity. This claim is founded on the huge number of studies that confirm that indeed such oily foods result in the accumulation of fats and, consequently, obesity.

The socioeconomic aspect also accounts for the rising cases of obesity in the UK as revealed by Cetateanu and Jones (2014). According to this study, children from the lower social-class are likely to become obese due to the easy access to outlets that offer unhealthy foods. On the other hand, higher social-class neighborhoods have been observed to report lower instances of childhood obesity because children in these settings have minimal access to junk foods. As such, the issue of income disparities leading to socioeconomic deprivation has a positive influence on the development of obesity among children in the UK. Therefore, addressing the childhood obesity menace in this country may require stakeholders to ensure that communities are not socioeconomically deprived.

Moreover, the literature reviewed shows that the failure of children to engage in physical activities is associated with the rising cases of obesity in the UK. School and home environments have been found to play an important part in providing children with an opportunity to exercise. From the literature review, learning centers that encourage children to join sports clubs contribute significantly to the alleviation of childhood obesity in comparison to schools that have low instances of pupils participating in games. Parents also have a role to play when it comes to encouraging their children to engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activities.

Evaluation of Writing about the Project Brief

This project brief reveals considerable cases of strengths and weaknesses. In particular, the literature used has facilitated an in-depth understanding of factors that are accountable for the observed rising cases of obesity among children in the UK. This research has the strength of using credible sources to identify causes, including poor dietary habits and the lack of physical activities among children, which lead to the rise in childhood obesity prevalence in the UK.

Findings made in this research are significant and valuable because they add to the existing scholarly work on childhood obesity in the UK. However, this project brief demonstrates a degree of limitation by assuming that socioeconomic deprivation is a major trigger of childhood obesity. One would expect the reverse since children from poor family backgrounds have no access to fatty foods or excess supply of unhealthy diets. Including data regarding children from poor family backgrounds to substantiate the stated null hypothesis may imply some biasness and errors in the conclusion made. The actual information should be derived from well-to-do families where sedentary lifestyles are expected.

Wallace and Sheldon (2015) emphasize that issues of bias undermine the reliability and validity of research findings. As such, it is important to observe the principle of objectivity in scientific research. In this regard, this research should have incorporated lifestyle trends that account for the upsurge of childhood obesity prevalence in the higher socioeconomic population in the UK. However, this project observed various ethical considerations.

For instance, the authorship of all materials used in this research was acknowledged to avoid plagiarism, which is regarded as an offense in the scholarly world. In addition, this study conducted a review of reliable sources published in the past five years. Overall, issues regarding the reliability and validity of this research were fostered by considering the above ethical standards.

Recommendations

Stakeholders in the public health issue, including parents and educators, need to encourage children to adopt healthy dietary habits since this measure goes a long way in curbing the development of childhood obesity in the UK. Parents may consider providing children with healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products. Additionally, encouraging children to consume lean meats as well as beans for protein may help to facilitate the fight against childhood obesity in the UK. Moreover, children need to be offered the recommended food portions in school and home settings.

The need for raising awareness regarding the benefits of physical activities among children is also an important intervention toward mitigating the rising trend of childhood obesity in the UK. The moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) plan facilitates the effective management of weight among children. As such, by encouraging children to engage in rigorous activities of different intensities, issues of overweight and obesity may be minimized significantly.

Moreover, the reduction of sedentary time is crucial for managing the obesity issue among children in the UK. Parents should assume a leading role in ensuring that children have a maximum of 2 hours of being inactive, particularly when interacting with social media platforms or televised programs. This intervention reduces screen time associated with watching television, playing games, and surfing the Internet. Parents need to encourage children to embrace fun activities with other family members as a way of ensuring that they stay active.

Conclusion

This research confirms the hypothesis that the prevalence of childhood obesity in the past 10 years has been on an upward trend in the UK. Major contributors to this public health issue include the adoption of unhealthy dietary habits, the lack of engagement in physical activities, and socioeconomic deprivation. Young people in the UK have a high desire for fast foods as well as high-energy beverages. Marketing campaigns by food suppliers is a major reason for the adoption of unhealthy dietary habits by children in the UK.

Furthermore, some schools fail to encourage students to join sports clubs that enhance their participation in physical activities. The absence of rigorous engagements paves the way for the accumulation of body fats, thereby resulting in cases of overweight and obesity among children. Moreover, socioeconomic deprivation makes it easy for children in lower social-class neighborhoods to opt for unhealthy foods, hence risking the development of obesity.

Reference List

Cetateanu, A & Jones, A 2014, ‘Understanding the relationship between food environments, deprivation and childhood overweight and obesity: evidence from a cross sectional England-wide study’, Health & Place, 27, pp. 68-76. Web.

Lobstein, T, Jackson-Leach, R, Moodie, M, Hall, K, Gortmaker, S, Swinburn, B, James, W, Wang, Y & McPherson, K 2015, ‘Child and adolescent obesity: part of a bigger picture’, The Lancet, vol. 385, no. 9986, pp. 2510-2520. Web.

van Jaarsveld, C & Gulliford, M 2015, ‘Childhood obesity trends from primary care electronic health records in England between 1994 and 2013: population-based cohort study’, Archives of Disease in Childhood, vol. 100, no. 3, pp. 214-219. Web.

Wallace, M & Sheldon, N 2015, ‘Business research ethics: participant observer perspectives’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 128, no. 2, pp. 267-277.

Wijnhoven, T, Raaij, J, Spinelli, A, Rito, A, Hovengen, R, Kunesova, M, Starc, G, Rutter, H, Sjöberg, A, Petrauskiene, A & O’Dwyer, U 2013, ‘WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative 2008: weight, height and body mass index in 6–9‐year‐old children’, Paediatric Obesity, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 79-97. Web.

Wilkie, H, Standage, M, Gillison, F, Cumming, S & Katzmarzyk, P 2016, ‘Multiple lifestyle behaviours and overweight and obesity among children aged 9–11 years: results from the UK site of the international study of childhood obesity, lifestyle and the environment’, BMJ Open, vol. 6, no. 2, p. e010677. Web.

Wilkie, H, Standage, M, Gillison, F, Cumming, S & Katzmarzyk, P 2018, ‘Correlates of intensity-specific physical activity in children aged 9–11 years: a multilevel analysis of UK data from the international study of childhood obesity, lifestyle and the environment’, BMJ Open, vol. 8, no. 2, p. e018373. Web.