Middle-class children are MORE likely to be obese than those from poorer backgrounds
Findings challenge long-held belief that poorer children more likely to be overweight
Girls, in particular, most likely to have a problem
Middle-class families have previously been accused of being in 'denial' about unhealthy lifestyles
10:09 GMT, 12 February 2013
12:19 GMT, 12 February 2013
Middle class children, especially girls, are more likely to be obese than their poorer counterparts
Middle-class children are more likely to be obese than those from poor families, researchers revealed today.
The findings undermine the long-held belief that childhood weight problems are most common among economically-deprived communities, scientists said.
By charting youngsters' obesity levels and where they lived, the team at Leeds Metropolitan University found that those in 'middle-affluent' areas of Leeds were more likely to be very overweight than those in very poor or very wealthy postcode areas.
The trend was particularly high among girls.
Claire Griffiths, who led the study of 13,333 schoolchildren over three years, said: 'Although the prevalence of obesity is higher than desirable across the whole city, it appears that children living in the most deprived and most affluent areas of the city are at the lowest risk, with boys and girls following different patterns.
'These results could help make informed decisions at the local level including the allocation of health promotion resources.
'This is especially important now in the light of the recently enhanced role for local governments and authorities with an increased focus on locally-led action in the UK to tackle childhood obesity.'
The research is published in the International Journal of Obesity.
Previous research has found that
affluent families tend to know all about healthy eating and the
importance of exercise – but are in 'denial' about changes they need to
A Department of Health report in 2008 said
these parents were 'treaters' – lower middle class families, from social
class C1, that were 'proud of having bettered themselves'.
'Dad is likely to work in middle
management; mum may have a part time job to earn money for luxuries,' it
said. 'Their children's educational achievement and material
possessions are key priorities.
Previous research has found that affluent families know they should eat better, but are in denial about the lifestyle changes they need to make
'They enjoy food, and believe themselves to be well informed about healthy eating. Although the whole household is likely to be overweight, these parents don't recognise the problem.
'They are often in denial about the healthiness of their children's diets and their true activity levels. Mums in particular are unlikely to encourage their children to exercise because they lack the confidence and motivation to do so themselves.'
The new study comes after research published at the end of last year found that a third of final year primary school children are overweight or obese.
The NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre, which released the figures, said year six pupils in urban areas were more likely to be obese than those who live in towns and suburbs.
Researchers say the new findings contradict the conventional 'deprivation theory' which suggests childhood weight problems are linked to poverty – a belief aired last month by public health minister Anna Soubry.
Ms Soubry said it was 'heartbreaking' that many of the families who were at greatest risk of obesity were among the poorest in the country.
The Conservative MP for Broxtowe, near Nottingham, said: 'When I go to my constituency, in fact when I walk around, you can almost now tell somebody’s background by their weight.
‘Obviously, not everybody who is overweight comes from deprived backgrounds but that’s where the propensity lies.'