The most recent NSW Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey conducted in 2010 suggests that the prevalence of overweight and obesity among young people aged 5 to 17 years may be stabilising, but is still at concerning levels, with more than one in five (23.6%) children (24% of boys and 23.1% of girls) being overweight or obese.

Childhood obesity is a serious concern because obese children have a greatly increased likelihood of becoming obese adults. Obese adults who were overweight as children also have higher levels of weight-related morbidity, and a higher risk of preventable mortality than those obese adults who only became obese in adulthood.

Children or adolescents who are overweight or obese are more likely in the short-term to develop gastrointestinal, endocrine or certain orthopaedic problems than children of normal weight and more likely in the longer-term to develop cardiovascular disease. The most immediate consequence of overweight as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

More details can be found in the publication A Snapshot of Childhood Overweight and Obesity in NSW.

Causes of Childhood Obesity

Overweight and obesity in children and young people is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics also playing an important role in determining a child's weight. In 2010, 95.9% of primary school age children and 42.1% of high school age children met the fruit consumption guidelines. However, only 43.6% of primary school age children and 20.1% of high school age children met the vegetable consumption guideline (for age).

In 2010 less than half of Years K, 2 and 4 students spent 60 minutes or more per day in physical activity. Boys (50.5%) were more likely to do so than girls (42.2%), but large numbers of young children failed to reach the minimum time required to have a positive health effect.​​

Page Updated: Tuesday 17 February 2015
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health