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Children are spending longer in front of a screen and it's putting their health at risk

A new report tracks childhood obesity over 12 years.

Image: Shutterstock/Pavel L Photo and Video

A DRAMATIC RISE IN the amount of time children spend using a computer, phone or tablet is putting their health at risk, the World Health Organisation has warned.

In a major new report on adolescent obesity and related behaviours, the WHO found that a significant increase in the amount of time children spend in front of the screen is putting their health at risk.

The report – titled Adolescent obesity and related behaviours – looked at the prevalence of obesity in children from 2002 to 2014.

It was based on the results of surveys send to more than 200,000 children in 42 countries over the time period.

The report found that obesity was on the rise among adolescents and that the vast majority of young people were failing to take the recommended level of exercise each day.

Close to two-thirds of children were found to be spending two or more hours a day playing games on computers, tablets or smartphones.

Commenting on the report, which will be launched later today at the European Congress on Obesity in Portugal, Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said:

“Despite sustained efforts to tackle childhood obesity, one in three adolescents is still estimated to be overweight or obese in Europe, with the highest rates found in southern European and Mediterranean countries.

Ambitious policy action is required to reach the Sustainable Development Goal to halt the increase in childhood obesity. Governments must target efforts and break this harmful cycle from childhood into adolescence and beyond.

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Childhood obesity is considered among healthcare professionals and experts as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.

Obese children are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep difficulties, musculoskeletal problems and future cardiovascular disease, as well as school absence, psychological problems and social isolation.

Dr Joao Breda, programme manager for nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the WHO Regional Office for Europe said that childhood obesity would have severe consequences for the future.

“Most young people will not outgrow obesity: about four in every five adolescents who become obese will continue to have weight problems as adults,” he said.

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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