A recent study of children’s waistlines in three Swiss cities shows strong correlations between obesity, nationality and the education level of parents.
Among Swiss children, 14.5% are obese or overweight, while among foreigners the rate is 22.1%.
The gap between those with the most and least educated parents is even greater. Only 10% of children with tertiary qualified parents are obese or overweight compared to 28% of those with parents with neither tertiary training or an apprenticeship qualification.
One piece of positive news from the report is the recent decline in child waistlines. Since 2005/06, the overall rate of children carrying unhealthy levels of excess weight dropped from 19.9% to 16.7%. Within these figures, the rate of obesity dropped from 5.2% to 4.1% over the same period.
The figures are still shocking. The worst affected age group is those at secondary school. Unsurprisingly rates of obesity climb with age as the effects of poor diet and other negative lifestyle factors accumulate with time. Across 2014/15/16/17, 24.2% of secondary school children were obese or overweight, compared to only 11.4% of preschoolers over the same period.
The problem of childhood obesity is relatively recent. Looking at old Swiss school photos from the 1950s no overweight child can be seen.
The most recent figures are based on the Body Mass Index (BMI) results of 13,710 school children and pre-schoolers in Basel, Zurich and Bern during the 2016/17 school year.