Scottish youngsters scoring F grades on health

Scottish children spend four hours a day screen-bound. Picture: PA
Scottish children spend four hours a day screen-bound. Picture: PA
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Scotland’s children spend too long staring at screens, get too little exercise and have high rates of obesity, a report has warned.

Research by a group of experts led by Strathclyde University found worrying trends in diet and activity levels.

They produced a “report card” awarding grades for the nation’s children under sections such as participation in sport and eating habits which from next May will be used to compare Scotland to other countries.

Medical experts said there was a risk a generation faced long-term health problems.

The Active Healthy Kids Scotland Report Card, funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, awards a grade from A to F in ten areas

The experts, which included Canadian and Aberdeen University scientists, awarded an F for sedentary behaviour after findings suggested 76 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds watched more than two hours of TV a day. On top of this, 77 per cent of boys and 37 per cent of girls played a further two hours of computer games.

An F grade was also awarded for obesity, with figures from the Scottish Health Survey showing that 16 per cent of two to 15-year-olds were obese in 2011, with even higher rates in more deprived groups.

Overall physical activity levels were given an F as only 19 per cent of adolescent boys and 11 per cent of girls aged 11 to 15 took at least 60 minutes of at least moderate physical activity each day as recommended.

A D was awarded for diet, due to high levels of sugar and saturated fat intake, with just 14 per cent eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.

A D was also given for the influence of family and peers. Scottish Health Survey statistics showed just 48 per cent of men and a third of women took 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise each week. In addition, conservative estimates also suggested 64 per cent of adults were overweight or obese, while just 22 per cent ate five portions of fruit or vegetables a day.

But the report awarded better marks in some areas, including the safety and availability of space to be active, which got a B grade. A B was also awarded to national policies, strategies and investment to increase healthy activities in children.

The experts gave a C grade for “active transportation” – for example levels of walking or cycling to school, but were unable to mark organised sports participation and outdoor play time due to a lack of data.

John Reilly, professor of physical activity and public health science at Strathclyde, said: “The grades in the report card provide a robust assessment of the ‘state of the nation’.”

The British Medical Association Scotland said: “We are in danger of raising a generation of children burdened with long-term chronic health conditions.

“The government must take real action in order to achieve a real improvement in the future health of our children.”

Sport minister Shona Robison said: “This is a welcome report card that recognises the breadth of our approach and scale of our investment, while clearly laying out the challenges Scotland faces with around three in ten children overweight or obese.”