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Child obesity rates in Germany high, but not increasing

March 15, 2018

A top German health body has released a report on children’s health. Obesity, smoking and psychological issues all remain problems.

Overweight kids in a gym
Image: picture-alliance/ZB/W. Grubitzsch

One in five children in Germany show indications of having psychological problems, according to a study released on Thursday by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health body.

Boys are more likely to have both emotional and behavioral problems than girls.

Read more: Refugee children face psychological trauma in Germany


According to the study, 15.4 percent of children between 3 and 17 are overweight or obese. That is a similar percentage to numbers from more than a decade ago.

Although overweight or obesity rates are high, researchers found it positive that the upward trend has stopped. At the same time, they say that the fact that the levels remain so high means there is no room for complacency.

Nearly half of children who were overweight or obese as a child remained so in their teenage years, the study said. Children who are overweight or obese are also more likely to suffer from weight issues as an adult. They are also more likely to have long-term health problems and be bullied, according to the US Centers of Disease Control.

Tackling childhood obesity

The study also found a correlation between children's weight problems and their socio-economic status, with kids from less-educated and well-off households most affected.

Read more: German researchers find poverty risk increases with number of children

Another issue is lack of exercise. Only 22.4 percent of girls and 29.4 percent of boys aged 3 to 17 years exercised 60 minutes daily, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Here again, the socio-economic status of families played a role. Children from socially disadvantaged families are significantly less active in sports.


The study also found that adolescents who smoke are likely to continue to do so as adults. Only 15 percent were able to quit as adults.

Smoking mothers have an impact on children's health. One in nine mothers with children aged 0-6 smoke. That is about a 50 percent drop from more than a decade ago.

Read more: 'No smoking': German Drugs Commissioner calls for fewer cigarettes on screen

The Robert Koch Institute first gathered data on children's health between 2003-2006. Another study was conducted between 2009-2012. It is the only wide-ranging study on children's health in Germany.

Some 25,000 children, adolescents and parents participated in the latest study conducted between 2014-2017.

cw/ng (dpa, KNA)

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