The research was led by Anton Holmgren, pediatrics researcher at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and Anna Fält, child health and parenting researcher at Uppsala University.

The study documents a statistically significant increase in the BMI (body mass index) of three-year-old children during the pandemic. The obesity rate among girls rose to 3.9 percent from 2.8 percent during the pandemic. The corresponding rates for boys were 2.4 and 2.6 percent.

The proportion of three-year-old girls who are usually classified as normal weight dropped to 80.9 percent during the pandemic from 82.6 percent previously. In the group of three-year-old boys, there was no relevant change in normal weight status.


There is a significant increase in BMI among four-year-old children. Obesity increased in both girls and boys: Overweight rose from 11.1 percent to 12.8 percent of girls, while underweight fell from 2.0 percent to 1.4 percent of boys. Five-year-olds showed no change in BMI.

Changes in BMI and socioeconomic status were found to be associated among children in the most disadvantaged areas. There, the percentage of overweight three- and four-year-old children increased from 9.5 percent to 12.4 percent, and obesity from 2.5 percent to 4.4 percent, while the percentage of normal weight children decreased.

Managing childhood obesity during the COVID-19 lockdown

Socioeconomic variables were measured using the Care Needs Index (CNI), an established method that classifies expected care requirements based on educational attainment; proportion of unemployed or in labor market programs; proportion of single parents; and the proportion born outside the western world.

“Although Sweden did not have the same lockdown as many other countries during the pandemic, overweight and obesity increased in three- and four-year-old children, and socioeconomic differences are evident even at such a young age,” notes Anton Holmgren, corresponding author of the study.

“The study highlights the need for additional efforts and interventions aimed at preventing childhood obesity, particularly in areas of low socioeconomic status,” he said.

Source: Eurekalert

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