Objectives: Surveys have shown the prevalence of overweight among school age children to be as high as 35% in parts of Europe, and several countries have reported prevalence rates increasing year-on-year. The purpose of the present paper is to review the rate of change in prevalence of overweight and obesity among children in the European region.
Methods: A search of published and unpublished surveys was undertaken to find pairs of surveys that could indicate rates of change of prevalence within comparable population groups using comparable measures. Data from 45 pairs of surveys from 11 countries were analysed.
Results: Annual increases in prevalence of overweight (including obesity) rose from typically below 0.5 percentage points in the 1980s, to over 1.0 percentage points in the late 1990s. For obesity alone, the annual increase in prevalence was typically below 0.1 percentage points in the 1980s and typically 0.3 percentage points in the late 1990s.
Conclusions: The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children is rising in the European region, and the annualised rates of increase are themselves increasing. Unless action is taken to counteract these trends, by the year 2010 the European Union can expect to see the numbers of overweight and obese children rising by approximately 1.3 million children per year, of which the numbers of obese children will be rising by over 0.3 million per year.