Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Public Health Nutrition vol. 7 issue 6 September 1, 2004. p. 729-735

DOI: 10.1079/PHN2004607


Background: Positive secular trends in adolescent obesity and an increased prevalence of fear of fatness, particularly among girls, have been documented world-wide. There is a lack of consensus about assessment criteria for childhood obesity and no standard exists for assessing Irish children. In 1990, the Irish National Nutrition Survey used body mass index (BMI) $26 kgm22 to describe the prevalence of overweight among Irish adolescents.

Objectives: (1) To examine the range in classification of Dublin schoolchildren as overweight according to four standard assessment methods; (2) to assess changes in weight status, prevalence of fear of fatness and accompanying slimming practices in a one-year follow-up; and (3) to compare the prevalence of overweight with that documented in 1990 among adolescents of similar age. Design: A one-year follow-up study of 199 healthy schoolchildren (90 boys and 109 girls; mean age of 11 years at baseline) attending seven fee-paying (six single- and one mixed-sex) and eight non-fee-paying (four single- and four mixed-sex) primary schools in Dublin city centre.

Measurements: Weight, height, waist circumference and triceps skinfold were measured and used in five definitions of overweight, including published cut-off points of BMI-for-age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI-for-age charts for boys and girls; BMI reference curves for the UK 1990; International Obesity Task Force age- and sex-specific BMI cut-offs), actual relative weight and BMI $ 26 kgm22. Assessment of body image perceptions and satisfaction (using figure line drawings) was reported in a questionnaire specifically designed for this study. Results: The prevalence of overweight within the total group differed between the four standard definitions of weight status, by 9% at baseline and 8% at follow-up. Accordingly, increasing trends over the year ranged from zero to 3%. Using the criterion BMI $ 26 kgm22, 6% of Dublin schoolchildren were overweight, compared with 1.9% of schoolchildren in 1990. Significantly more girls than boys were affected by fear of fatness and were trying to lose weight.

Conclusion: A standard method for assessment of weight status is urgently needed for the evaluation of obesity prevention initiatives among Irish schoolchildren. Such initiatives need to be sensitive to the pervasiveness of fear of fatness among adolescent girls.


Included in

Biology Commons