Icelandic children have never been so heavy. According to the latest measurements, a quarter of Icelandic primary school children are overweight and in that group, the number of children defined as obese is increasing rapidly. It is interesting to note that a high percentage of obesity among adolescent boys, but one in ten boys in the ninth grade are obese. This health issue has caused an alarm among Icelandic health professionals.
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Six percent of elementary school children are obese
Children are weighed and measured from birth, in infant care, and then on to school nurses when children are in first, fourth, seventh, and ninth grade. According to the latest measurements, almost a quarter of children who were weighed last winter are overweight, of which six percent are obese.
The school nurses that Kompás spoke to agreed that these figures show that we have not said goodbye to the obesity epidemic in this country. Icelandic children started to gain weight forty years ago, this development slowed down around 2010 but now the numbers have risen again.
“When children enter the school system, they are in good shape, at an ideal weight,” says Guðfinna Eðvarðsdóttir, head of the school health department in Suðurnes.
“But as they get older and approach adolescence, you can see that they are gaining weight faster than they should be.”
According to experts, there are many factors that cause overweight and obesity. A big factor is a genetic factor but also a way of life; exercise and diet. The child’s social status and even trauma can also have an effect.
But the fact that a quarter of children in Iceland are overweight, or in other words overweight, does not necessarily mean that there is a problem. It can be a temporary condition, interest rate hike, or puberty to begin. But something else applies to obesity. A child is diagnosed with obesity when there is a two and a half standard deviation from the mean when the overweight has become significant.
“Obesity is in fact a message from us doctors that the fat stores have become so large that it is very likely that they have started to disrupt some activities or will do so in the future,” says Tryggvi Helgason, a pediatrician at Heilsuskóli Barnaspítali Hringsins.