Since the 1930s, life expectancy across the developed world has risen consistently. However, our children’s health is a “ticking time bomb”, researchers warn.
Children will be less healthy than today’s 65 year olds by the time they reach that age, experts have warned.
The stark warning comes as NHS figures reveal one in every five children aged 10 to 11 is obese due to lifestyle-related problems, such as consuming too much sugar and doing too little exercise.
The report directed by the Economist Intelligence Unit is based, in part, on a survey of educators from five countries: India, Brazil, Germany, South Africa and Saudi Arabia, and focuses on the health education of children.
‘A worse future’
Of the 101 polled educators, 58% said children can expect worse future health than today’s older adults.
Being overweight and poor hygiene were identified by the educators as the main health problems children face that may lead to problems later in life.
As a result, the Economist Intelligence Unit is calling for action to help tackle the issue.
“Considering the longer life years that today’s children can expect, it makes sense to focus on health practices that will increase the chances of making those longer life years healthy ones”, said the unit’s research director, Aviva Freudmann.
Recent research conducted by King’s College London found that children who are obese are four times more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes than their slimmer counterparts.
Moreover, the head of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has noted on more than one occasion that while a quarter of children who enter primary school are overweight or obese, that proportion rises to a third by the time they leave.
A ‘ticking time bomb’
Professor Richard Tiffin from the University of Reading, who was also involved in the Economist Intelligence Unit study, said: “Childhood obesity is a ticking time bomb and we must now turn our attention to other measures that will bring about the step change in diet that is necessary to truly tackle this issue”.
The controversial “sugar tax” that will take effect next year will have a significant impact on childhood obesity, according to a study conducted by Oxford University last year. However, it can’t come soon enough for some experts, who say that the Government needs to do more to tackle the childhood obesity crisis.
Unless more is done to reduce childhood obesity, the NHS will come under “enormous and unsustainable strain” from childhood obesity – a condition that already costs £5bn a year, according to the Obesity Health Alliance.
While adverts for junk food are already banned from being shown on children’s television, the Obesity Health Alliance says this isn’t enough. It says the Government needs to enforce mandatory reformulation of food to reduce fat, salt and sugar.
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