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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2000 Jun;54(6):456-60.

Deprivation and childhood obesity: a cross sectional study of 20,973 children in Plymouth, United Kingdom.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, South and West Devon Health Authority, Dartington, UK.



To study the association between socioeconomic deprivation and childhood obesity.


Cross sectional study.


All state primary schools in Plymouth. Plymouth is a relatively deprived city in the United Kingdom, ranking 338th of 366 local authorities on the Department of the Environment Index of Local Conditions.


20 973 children between the ages of 5 and 14 years, 1994-96.


Numbers of obese children (body mass index (BMI) above the 98th centile) by quarters of Townsend score.


Plymouth had a rate of childhood obesity two and half times that expected nationally (5% v 2%). The obesity prevalence increased with age, being almost double in the oldest age quarter (boys 6.2%; girls 7.0%), compared with the youngest age quarter. Within Plymouth, there was a significant trend for higher rates of obesity related to increasing deprivation in both boys (p=0. 017) and girls (p=0.018). The odds ratio (OR) for childhood obesity (highest-lowest quarter of Townsend scores) had borderline significance in boys (OR 1.29, 95% confidence intervals (CI) 1.00 to 1.65, p=0.049) but was larger and more significant in the girls (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.08 to 1.80, p=0.011). Unlike boys, the association between obesity in girls and Townsend scores became stronger with age such that in the oldest age quarter (over 11.7 years), girls in the highest quarter of Townsend scores were nearly twice as likely be obese, as compared with the lowest quarter (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.23 to 3.08, p=0.005). State of pubertal development could not be accounted for as this information was not available.


This study provides evidence for an association between deprivation and childhood obesity in this English population. The health of children from deprived households is affected by a number of adverse influences. The high prevalence of obesity in these children is yet another factor that could predispose to greater morbidity in adult life.

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