Obesity rising for Fukushima kids

December 28, 2012

An alarming trend toward obesity has been found among children in Fukushima Prefecture, which has the highest rate of obese children in every age group between 5 and 9 years old, according to the results of a nationwide school health survey released by the education ministry.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry also said the prefecture ranked second-worst for the rate of obese children aged 10 and 11.

An official of the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education attributed the trend to “a lack of physical exercise and stress stemming from prolonged living in shelters and restrictions on playing outside” after the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

The survey comprised a random nationwide sample of 695,600 children in kindergarten, primary, middle and high schools, aged from five to 17, from April to June.

The sample represents about 5 per cent of all children in the country in this age group.

The survey reflects the number of children with an obesity rate, which is calculated based on average weights and other factors, of 20 per cent or more.

It was not conducted last year in Fukushima Prefecture due to the disaster.

In comparison with figures from the 2010 academic year, the prefecture’s rate of 6-year-old obese boys increased to 11.4 per cent, the highest observed, from 6.2 per cent, or ninth place just two years ago.

The age group containing 8-year-old girls in the prefecture also showed the highest obesity rates, standing at 14.61 per cent–nearly double the 8.1 per cent recorded in 2010, or 17th in the rankings.

Children in the 10- and 11-year-old age groups in Miyagi Prefecture and those in the 16-year-old age group in Iwate Prefecture also had the highest obesity level in the rankings

However, the increase in obese children in Fukushima Prefecture was the most extreme among the three prefectures, which were hit hardest by the quake and tsunami.

Many children from Fukushima Prefecture still live in shelters away from their homes.

Furthermore, about half of public primary schools had restricted their students’ outdoor activities, such as to three hours in a day as of October 2011, out of consideration for possible radiation on school grounds.

Regarding the spike in obesity in the 5- to 9-year-old group, an official of the education board said: “Parents, particularly those who have small children, were very concerned about possible radiation effects.

They may have also restricted their children from playing outside at home.”

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

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