Overweight among children, youth more common in rural areas

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Overweight and obesity among children and young people are more common in rural areas than in urban areas, according to a new study conducted by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

Overweight and obesity are common among under school age children, primary school age as well as those of secondary school age in the rural areas, said THL in a press release on Tuesday, quoting the study.

The study’s results are based on the weight and height data for more than half a million children and young children aged 2-16 years, which were measured in 2019 during health examinations at child health clinics and school health care.

The residential area of children and young people was examined in accordance with the Finnish Environment Institute’s seven-tier urban-rural classification, which is independent of municipal borders and also takes into account regional differences within municipalities.

The differences between regions in the prevalence of overweight and obesity were greater among boys than among girls and greater among school-aged children than those who are younger.

The greatest differences between regions were among girls and boys of primary school age. The overweight rate among boys in primary school was 10 percentage points (36% vs. 26 %) and the obesity rate was 7 percentage points (14 % vs. 7 %) being more common in sparely populated rural areas than in urban areas.

The overweight rate among girls in primary school was 8 percentage points (24 % vs. 16 %) and the obesity rate was 3 percentage points (6 % vs. 3%) more common in core rural areas than in urban areas.

"The results of the study confirm the results of previous studies on urban-rural disparities. In this study, we used a classification which describes the characteristics of residential areas in more detail than the traditional urban-rural classification based on municipal boundaries for the first time to examine the differences between regions," said Senior Researcher Maaret Vuorenmaa of the THL.

Regional differences in the prevalence of overweight are due to such factors as differences in education and income, and opportunities for health-promoting food and lifestyle choices among the population.

In rural areas, the distances between home and school or hobbies are often long, which reduces children's and young people's possibilities for walking or cycling to these independently. Long distances also affect the amount of leisure time.

Local forests and opportunities for physical activity in nature are important for both urban and rural residents.

In rural areas, nature and forests are close and offer versatile opportunities for outdoor recreation and hiking, but there are usually fewer sports and exercise facilities or organised hobbies than in cities.

Differences in dietary and physical activity habits due to family background or residential area can be balanced out in early childhood education and school.

Food and food education in accordance with nutritional recommendations in early childhood education and schools promote the health and good nutrition of children's and young people.

The operating culture of early childhood education and schools can be developed to become more physically active by adding physical activity and physically active play to the early childhood education and school day and by organising hobbies during the school day.

"While the study found regional differences in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and young people, actions are needed to support the healthy growth and lifestyles of children throughout the country. Single actions are not enough. Instead, we need broad-based cooperation, actions in different sectors of society and political decisions. The aim is to develop the living environment of children and young people so that it supports and facilitates health-promoting choices," said Päivi Mäki, Development Manager of THL.

  •  Overweight
  •  Common
  •  Rural
  •  Areas

Source: www.dailyfinland.fi

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