Overweight children

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Last updated 11 October 2017 - see all updates

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1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2015/16, an estimated 22.1% of children aged 4 to 5 and 34.2% of children aged 10 to 11 in England were overweight

  • for children aged 4 to 5, this was an increase from 21.9% in 2014/15

  • for children aged 10 to 11, this was an increase from 33.2% in 2014/15

  • in both the 4 to 5 and the 10 to 11 age groups, Black African children were the most likely to be overweight in 2015/16, with almost a third (31.2%) of the younger group and nearly half (45.9%) of the older group overweight

  • in 2015/16, Black African children aged 4 to 5 were more than twice as likely to be overweight compared to Indian children, of whom 14.5% were overweight

  • among children aged 10 to 11, children from the White and Asian mixed ethnic group were least likely to be overweight (30.1%) in 2015/16, followed by Chinese children (30.2%)

Things you need to know

The data is collected through the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP). As with any data source, errors may have been made when collecting, preparing or interpreting the data. Some overweight children may be more likely to opt out of participating in the NCMP than children who are not overweight. However the opt out rate is relatively low and the impact on the resulting statistics has been determined to be minimal.

When observing trends in these statistics, do not infer the existence or absence of trends outside the time period covered by this measure.

The differences between ethnic groups in the percentage of children who are overweight that were observed and reported on here were larger than any uncertainty around the estimates (they were ‘statistically significant’).

The data presented here only includes children who participated in the NCMP in state-maintained schools. Any measurements taken at independent or special schools are excluded from this analysis.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of children who are overweight in 2 age groups – reception year (4 to 5 years old) and year 6 (10 to 11 years old). The data covers children in state-maintained schools but not those in independent or special schools.

Estimates are based on measurements of children in the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) in participating state-maintained schools in England in academic years 2014/15 to 2015/16. The data is collected to help support local health initiatives and services for children.

Defining a child as overweight is a complex process because a child’s weight and height change at the same time as they grow. For information on that process see the Methodology section.

In the commentary for this measure the data presented is for children who were ‘overweight’. This includes children who were obese.

The ethnic categories used in this data

The 16 categories used in this data are those listed in the 2001 census. The categories are broadly the same as those used in the 2011 census, with the following exceptions:

  • the 2001 census categorised Chinese people within 'Other ethnic group'
  • the 2001 census did not list Gypsy and Irish Travellers or Arab people

The 2001 categories are therefore as follows:

White:

  • English/ Welsh/ Scottish/ Northern Irish/ British
  • Irish
  • Any other White background

Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups:

  • White and Black Caribbean
  • White and Black African
  • White and Asian
  • Any other Mixed/Multiple ethnic background

Asian/Asian British:

  • Indian
  • Pakistani
  • Bangladeshi
  • Any other Asian background

Black/African/Caribbean/Black British:

  • African
  • Caribbean
  • Any other Black/ African/ Caribbean background

Other ethnic group:

  • Chinese
  • Any other ethnic group

2. Overweight children by ethnicity

Percentage of 4 to 5 year olds and 10 to 11 year olds by ethnicity who were overweight in 2014/15 and 2015/16
2014/15 2015/16
Ethnicity 2014/15 4 to 5 year olds 2014/15 10 to 11 year olds 2015/16 4 to 5 year olds 2015/16 10 to 11 year olds
All 21.9 33.2 22.1 34.2
Bangladeshi 21.6 43.0 20.3 42.7
Chinese 17.3 29.8 17.1 30.2
Indian 14.9 35.1 14.5 36.3
Pakistani 19.8 39.1 19.2 40.6
Asian other 19.4 38.6 19.6 38.2
Black African 30.8 44.8 31.2 45.9
Black Caribbean 24.7 43.1 25.2 45.3
Black other 28.7 43.4 28.4 41.6
Mixed White/Asian 15.6 29.4 16.2 30.1
Mixed White/Black African 28.6 39.6 26.7 40.3
Mixed White/Black Caribbean 25.5 39.5 24.9 39.4
Mixed other 22.1 35.2 22.0 36.7
White British 22.1 31.3 22.4 31.9
White Irish 23.8 31.8 24.7 32.8
White other 20.7 35.1 20.4 36.2
Any other 23.2 39.1 23.8 40.6
Unknown 21.3 32.3 22.0 34.4

Download table data for ‘Overweight children by ethnicity ’ (CSV) Source data for ‘Overweight children by ethnicity ’ (CSV)

Summary of Overweight children Overweight children by ethnicity Summary

  • the percentage of children aged 4 to 5 who were overweight was significantly lower than the 22.1% national average in the following ethnic groups: Indian, Mixed White and Asian, Chinese, Pakistani, Any other Asian background, Bangladeshi, and Any other White background

  • the percentage of children aged 10 to 11 who were overweight was significantly lower than the 34.2% national average in the following ethnic groups: White and Asian mixed, Chinese, and White British

  • in both age groups, Black African children were the most likely to be overweight in 2015/16, with almost a third (31.2%) of the younger group and nearly half the older group (45.9%) overweight

  • among children aged 10 to 11, children from the Mixed White/Asian ethnic group were least likely to be overweight (30.1% were in 2015/16)

  • among 4 to 5 year olds, 14.5% of Indian children were overweight, the lowest percentage of any ethnic group

  • however, among 10 to 11 year olds, 36.3% of Indian children were overweight, higher than the England average

  • for other Asian groups (aside from Chinese) the proportion of children aged 10 to 11 who were overweight was about twice that of children aged 4 to 5

3. Methodology

Launched in 2005/06, the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures over one million children each year and is a valuable source of data on childhood obesity.

Measurements of height and weight are collected from children in reception (ages 4 to 5) and year 6 (ages 10 to 11), primarily in state-maintained schools in England. This analysis is based only on children in state-maintained schools that participated in the programme.

The NCMP uses a child’s body mass index reference to determine if a child is overweight or obese. For more information on the NCMP and how the programme determines if a child is overweight or obese, see the NCMP website.

Children aren’t required to participate in the programme, but if they don’t want to they need to opt out. In 2015/16 there were 1,170,000 participants, with only 5% of pupils opting out.

Confidence intervals

The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available in the ‘download the data’ section.

Based on the NCMP measurements, it’s estimated that 22.1% of children aged 4 to 5 and 34.2% of children aged 10 to 11 were overweight in England in 2015/16.

The NCMP is calculated from the number of schoolchildren aged 4 to 5 and aged 10 to 11 in state-maintained schools, rather than all schoolchildren of those ages in England. This measure makes a reliable estimate of the percentage of children of these ages in England who are overweight, but it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 22.0% and 22.2% of all 4 to 5 year olds were overweight in 2015/16. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken from the total population of school age children in England, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the upper and lower confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the size of the population, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer children from the Chinese ethnic group are enrolled in state-maintained schools in England than White children, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval, for example of between 15.6% and 18.6% for Chinese children aged 4 to 5 in 2015/16.

Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap with the England value.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

England totals include all children in state-maintained schools, with a valid height and weight measurement, including those with an unknown residency.

Rounding

Figures have been rounded to one decimal point.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

National Child Measurement Programme

National Child Measurement Programme archives

National Child Measurement Programme - England, 2015-16

4. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Public Health England

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of children in reception class (aged 4 to 5 years) and year 6 (aged 10 to 11 years) to assess overweight and obesity levels in children within primary schools. This data can be used at a national level to support local public health initiatives and inform the local planning and delivery of services for children.

Secondary source

Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

NHS Digital

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of children in Reception class (aged 4 to 5) and year 6 (aged 10 to 11), to assess overweight and obesity levels in children within primary schools.

5. Download the data

Overweight children - Spreadsheet (csv) 15 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, age group, value, denominator, numerator and confidence intervals