Understanding childhood weight in Scotland: What can longitudinal data tell us?

Our new report, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Glasgow, explores how levels of healthy weight change as children in Scotland grow up from early years into adolescence.

The unique analysis covers a variety of patterns and trends, including inequalities present at different childhood ages and across time, as well as how strongly food insecurity is associated with weight outcomes. The report is based on data from the Growing Up in Scotland longitudinal research study.

Both a summary report and full report have been published.


Key findings:

  • Children who experienced food insecurity at a young age were four times more likely to experience persistent obesity from the start of Primary school up to age 14 than children who did not experience food insecurity
  • Based on the experiences of children in the cohort, it is likely that at least half of Scottish children today will experience overweight or obesity by the age of 14 years.   
  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity increased from 25% at age 4, to 37% at age 14. This was mainly driven by increases in obesity, which rose from 10% to 22%.   
  • Poverty and social disadvantage, including area level deprivation, circumstances of parent(s), food insecurity and a range of other, often co-existing factors, amplify the risk of experiencing overweight and obesity.