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Child health - all in the playground?

Tuesday September 29th, 2009

School childrenPopular and dominant children really are set up to do well in life, researchers report today.

Children who are successful with their class-mates may go on to enjoy exceptional health as adults, according to researchers in Stockholm.

The Swedish study comes as British researchers warn of the growing threat posed by lack of activity to the health of the rising generation.

The findings come from a 50 year study of more than 14,000 people in Sweden born in 1953. It is possible it reflects social conditions in just one country.

Researchers had identified the most popular children at the ages of 12 and 13 and were able to relate this to their fate later in life.

They found that the most unpopular children were four times as likely as others to develop diseases such as diabetes - and were twice as likely as others to develop mental illness.

The most popular children became the healthiest adults, according to the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researcher Ylva Almquist, of Stockholm University, Sweden, suggests: "Peer status in childhood is linked to adult health through behavioural and psychological factors that influence the development of disorders and diseases in which these factors feature."

* A second study in the same journal reports that children of working parents lead unhealthier lifestyles than others.

British researchers studied some 12,500 five-year-old children for their research.

They found that those with working parents were most likely to spend two hours or more a day in front of the television, were least likely to snack on fruit and vegetables and were most likely to be driven to school.

Researcher Professor Catherine Law, of University College London, writes: "Our results do not imply that mothers should not work. Rather, they highlight the need for policies and programmes to help support parents to create a healthy environment for their children."

Another survey of British children, released yesterday, suggests just 12 per cent get at least an hour of physical activity a day. And nearly a third of all children do less than an hour of exercise a week, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Dr Mike Knapton, of the BHF, said: "We have a generation of kids growing up who have a shockingly blas? attitude towards exercise and being active."

Former Olympic athlete Sally Gunnell added: "As a mum, I know how children can benefit from being active. It's something that all children should enjoy as part of a healthy lifestyle and is also a great way to socialise with friends."

J Epidemiol Community Health 2009; doi: 10.1136/jech.2009.088377
J Epidemiol Community Health 2009; doi: 10.1136/jech.2008.084590

Tags: Child Health | Diabetes | Diet & Food | Europe | Fitness | Mental Health | UK News

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