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Focus on the root causes of obesity says BPS in response to the latest child obesity figures

02 November 2020

The British Psychological Society is urging a focus on the root causes of obesity, including stigma, poverty and inequality, following the latest child obesity figures released recently.

Now, more than one-third (35%) of children are overweight or obese by the time they are 11 years old.

In addition, the figures highlight the very real link between poverty and obesity, with children in the most deprived areas more than twice as likely to be obese, than those living in the least deprived areas.

13.3% of Reception children living in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 6.0% of those living in the least deprived areas, while 27.5% of Year 6 children living in the most deprived areas were obese compared to 11.9% of those living in the least deprived areas. 

Our 2019 report Psychological Perspectives on Obesity called for the government to understand all the causes of obesity - biological, psychological and social– and use approaches to behaviour change for prevention and weight management that are informed by psychology.

Dr Lisa Newson, Chair of the BPS Obesity Task and Finish Group, said:

"The latest figures on child obesity are disappointing, and highlight the need for the government to reconsider its strategy and investment in this agenda.

The stark reality is that we need action and we need a systemic approach to obesity which tackles inequality, including poverty.

We need both a public health and an NHS treatment strategy if we are to truly prevent individuals becoming obese, and to support those (one third of children) already obese.

We need to consider an evidence based behavioural and psychological approach so that policies and initiatives can be designed to make meaningful change and we urge the government to engage with us and action our key recommendations as published in the 2019 report.”

Dr Paul Chadwick, member of the BPS Obesity Task and Finish Group said:

“These figures don’t lie.

We know what children in deprived areas face challenges which shape their food and physical activity choices.

What psychology can do is help us understand the challenges they face, and decisions they make so we can impact real change and create a healthier future for our children."

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