Overweight and obesity among four-year-olds in Sweden increased after the start of the lockdown policy in 2020, according to researchers at Uppsala University. In 2020, over 30 per cent more children became morbidly obese compared to 2018.
Previous studies have shown how children have suffered in a number of ways during the corona policy’s quarantine rules and lockdowns. For example, BRIS, the Swedish Children´s Rights in Society, found that children were more vulnerable in 2020 as calls to the organization increased significantly. A smaller study from Uppsala University also showed that overweight and obesity increased among younger children, which was assumed to be due to the strict restrictions at preschools.
In a new, more comprehensive study, researchers at Uppsala University examined health data for children in Sweden from routine four-year visits to child health clinics. Health data from 105 445 children in 2018 were compared with 101 001 children from 2020 from 18 regions.
Between 2018 and 2020, overweight and morbid obesity in four-year-olds increased by 16.6 percent across the country. In boys it increased by 20.8 percent and for girls 13.5 percent. The largest increases were in the Swedish regions Sörmland, Gävleborg and Västernorrland, while the smallest increases were in Gotland and Stockholm.
However, it was morbid obesity that increased the most. In 2020, 31.8 percent more children had the disease compared to 2018, while obesity among others increased by 13 percent.
– It was surprising to us that the biggest increase was seen for the disease obesity. This suggests that those who were struggling before the pandemic got even worse in 2020, says Charlotte Nylander, researcher at Uppsala University.
Morbid obesity in particular can cause several health problems both at a young age, but also later in adulthood. For example, researchers at Uppsala University recently concluded that there is no such thing as “harmless obesity”.
The researchers note that the increase in overweight and obesity in four-year-olds during the covid-19 restrictions needs to be addressed and that the development needs to be monitored and preventive programs need to be considered along with health interventions.