To examine the prevalence and changes in the prevalence of overweight and obesity among school children in Jena (Germany) in the last twenty years and to identify factors associated with childhood overweight.
Cross-sectional surveys in 1975, 1985, 1995 and a household questionnaire in 1995.
Children from schools in Jena, aged 7-14 y, participated (1975 : 1002 boys and 1000 girls; 1985 : 781 boys and 753 girls; 1995 : 989 boys and 912 girls).
Prevalence of overweight or obesity based on the 90th or 97th age- and sex-specific percentile of the body mass index (BMI) developed for French children. In 1995 factors examined in relation to overweight included birth weight, birth length, age-class, number of children in household, occupation of the father, education of the mother and size of flat (apartment).
In boys the prevalence of overweight increased from 10.0 to 16.3% and in girls from 11.7 to 20.7% between 1975 and 1995. The prevalence of obesity increased from 5.3 to 8.2% in boys and from 4.7 to 9.9% in girls between 1975 and 1995. However, the peak in the increase of overweight as well as of obesity lie for both sexes between 1985 and 1995. Using logistic regression, statistically significant associations with overweight were found for occupation of the father, birth weight in both sexes and additionally, for size of flat in girls.
Overweight and obesity are increasing health problems among Jena children. Further investigations are needed to explore the influence of factors such as feeding pattern, food habits and physical activity on overweight. Special attention should be paid to the further social development in the society and to the link between low social class and overweight. Through such investigations effective preventive strategies could be developed.