Friday 6 December 2019

Setting bad example: 63pc of parents with young children are overweight or obese

Doctor measuring overweight boy in clinic. Stock picture
Doctor measuring overweight boy in clinic. Stock picture
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Most parents of children and young people under 18 are overweight or obese, shocking new figures reveal today.

Although they're expected to set a healthy example for their children, almost three-quarters of Irish fathers with children under 18 are too fat.

And more than one in two mothers with children in the same age group are also overweight or obese.

The worrying picture, with 63pc of all parents with young children being overweight or obese, has emerged in the Healthy Ireland Survey, funded by the Department of Health and conducted by Ipsos MRBI.

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"As 63pc of parents are overweight or obese, this means that it is likely that most children in Ireland are growing up in a household where at least one parent is overweight," the report warns.

Meanwhile, one in every six parents is a smoker and half fail to achieve the minimum recommended levels of physical activity.

While most mothers would like to be more active, but are constrained by responsibilities like childcare, the majority of fathers are doing little to tackle their waistlines.

The battle of the bulge for parents in Ireland mirrors that for the wider population, 60pc of whom are overweight or obese.

Although this has dropped slightly in men since 2017 -from 70pc to 66pc- it means just 37pc of adults are of a healthy weight.

The report found that among the wider population, smoking has reduced from 23pc in 2015 to 17pc. It means there are 165,000 fewer smokers than there were five years ago.

However, smoking rates among those aged 25-34 are high at 26pc and reach 40pc among the unemployed.

Some 17pc of those who are overweight or obese are also smokers, "heightening the potential for health risks".

One in 20 of the population uses e-cigarettes and 12pc have tried them. More than a quarter of those aged 25-34 have tried vaping and high numbers of all ages use them in an attempt to quit smoking.

When it comes to physical activity, much of the nation is risking an early grave by not moving enough.

Just 46pc are getting the minimum level of activity of 150 minutes a week exercise, only 2pc higher than in 2015 despite the health messages.

It is as low as 18pc among the over-75s and at a modest 61pc among the 15-24-year-olds. Men are more active than women as are those in affluent areas compared with deprived districts.

People spend an average of 5.1 hours a day sitting and are even more tied to the couch at weekends, the survey found. In 2015 the figure was 5.3 hours.

Some 84pc of people say their health is very good or good. This declines to 64pc in women and 60pc of men in the over-75s.

One third of people have a long-standing illness, up from 29pc in 2018.

The most common conditions suffered from in the past year are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, arthritis, asthma and emotional problems such as anxiety.

Arthritis is more prevalent among women at 11pc, compared with 8pc of men.

As a nation we are getting an average of 7.1 hours sleep and one-third are clocking up between seven and eight hours.

Those who have jobs and are engaged in "home duties" get less sleep, as do people with weight problems. But students are managing 7.9 hours.

One quarter of parents with children under six report difficulties sleeping. Some 26pc of Dubliners are bothered by noise at night but this falls to 14pc for those elsewhere around the country.

As a nation we are adopting some good habits and the new data shows that 92pc report using some form of protection when exposed to the sun for more than 30 minutes.

Sunscreen and sunglasses are the most commonly used forms of protection.

Health Minister Simon Harris and Minister of State Catherine Byrne welcomed the findings on the continued drop in the smoking rate.

"A multi-pronged approach, with legislation, support for smoking cessation, and policies to denormalise smoking in our society, is bearing fruit and we are heading in the right direction," they said.

However, they said that levels of overweight and obesity were a concern.

Irish Independent

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