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One in four three-year-olds are overweight, study shows

Latest figures showed children from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to have weight problems.

Image: erix! via Flickr

ONE IN FOUR three-year-olds in Ireland is now overweight, with around one in every 17 qualifying as obese, according to latest figures.

The results from the Growing Up in Ireland study launched by children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald yesterday showed a relationship between obesity rates and social class.

One in 20 toddlers born to parents in professional/managerial jobs were obese, compared to almost one in 11 children in the most disadvantaged group. However, weight was a problem across the board, with at least one-fifth of children in all groups overweight.

There were significant differences in the amount of ‘junk food’ a toddler was likely to consume, depending on the educational level of his or her parents.

Some 63 per cent of children whose mother had a lower secondary education or less consumed at least one portion of crisps. This was far higher than the number – 36 per cent – of children from parents with university degrees.

The study also examined the living conditions of the children. It found a dramatic rise in unemployment among their fathers, which had more than doubled since the last round of the study.

When the children were nine months old, six per cent of their fathers were unemployed. This has now risen to 14 per cent.

Sixty-one per cent of the families said they had difficulties making ends meet – a significant increase from two years ago, when the figure was 44 per cent.

Speaking at yesterday’s launch, Frances Fitzgerald said: “This research highlights the heavy economic strain being experienced by families today, which is deeply disturbing. The research shows what we already know on a personal basis, families are finding it very tough to make ends meet.”

Read more: Fast-food outlets could be banned near schools>

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Michael Freeman

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