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Youth Obesity Reaches Alarming Proportions

By Yang Ji-ho | March 16, 2018 13:04

Obesity among youngsters swelled to a record 17.3 percent last year, up 0.8 percent from a year earlier. The problem gets worse as children grow older. Some 21.3 percent of high schoolers were obese, followed by 16.2 percent of middle schoolers and 15.2 percent of elementary schoolchildren.

According to last year's health check data of 80,000 students at 764 schools nationwide published by the Education Ministry, the higher obesity rate of older students was mainly due to a high-calorie diet of a lot of burgers, pizza and instant noodles, and less exercise.

Some 68 percent of elementary schoolkids said they have fast food more than once a week, and the proportion only grows with age, reaching 80.5 percent among high-schoolers, the highest on record. Just 23.4 percent of high-schoolers and 58.3 percent of elementary schoolchildren said they exercise vigorously at least three times a week.

Obesity is worse in rural areas than in cities. Among elementary schoolchildren, 14.5 percent were obsess in cities but 18 percent in rural areas. The same goes for high school students, where the rate was 21 percent in cities and 22.7 percent in rural areas.

"Many students in rural areas take school buses to schools, and they care less about their weight than those in cities," said a ministry official.

High school seniors are shorter and heavier than 10 years ago. A male senior's average height was 173.5 cm and a female one's 160.8 cm, down 0.4 cm and 0.1 cm from 10 years ago. Their weight rose a whopping 2.7 kg and 2.4 kg over the same period.

Some 44.3 percent of high schoolers sleep less than six hours a day, compared to 2.7 percent of elementary schoolkids and 12.4 percent at middle school.
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