The number of obese children and youngsters in the low-income bracket almost doubled in the past decade, but in the high-income bracket fewer youngsters were overweight.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare on Tuesday, obesity among children in the bottom 25 percent income bracket stood at 5 percent in 1998, but grew to 9.7 percent in 2008, the highest among all income brackets. In the top 25 percent, which recorded the highest obesity rate of 6.6 percent 10 years ago, the percentage dropped to 5.5 percent.
Children in the low-income bracket took more calories at 235 kcal a day than their counterparts a decade ago, while the calorie intake remained almost same or fell in other income brackets. The overall obesity rate among children and youngsters rose from 4.2 percent to 6.7 percent.
Experts attribute the high obesity rate in the low-income bracket to the absence of supervision from parents or carers. As a result, children tend to spend time playing computer games rather than exercising, and eat more junk food.
"In general, 68 percent of obese children continue to have health problems as an adult," said Oh Sang-woo of the Korean Society for the Study of Obesity. "Obesity causes all kinds of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke." Childhood obesity means a higher chance of developing chronic diseases earlier, enormously increasing socio-economic costs.
"Obese children often lose confidence in themselves, leading to poor school achievement. Furthermore, they are likely to face difficulties in getting a job later due to prejudice against obesity and pass on poverty to the next generation," said Prof. Kang Jae-heon of Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital.