New report reveals over half of parents of overweight children think their children’s weight ‘about right’

Monday 11 February, 2013. Findings from a new report by safefood into how we actually perceive our weight has revealed that 54% of parents¹ of overweight primary school children thought their children’s weight was ‘about right for their height’. Parents of teens were even less accurate in their judgement, with 75% of parents² of overweight teenagers thinking that their teen’s weight was ‘fine’. The report, which looked at studies of body weight status and perceptions on the island of Ireland over the past decade also found that 1 in 3 adults don’t recognise they are overweight themselves.  At present, 2 out of 3 adults³ and 1 in 4 children¹ are either overweight or obese.

Launching the report, Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said:

Not recognising our own weight status or indeed, our children’s weight status represents a major barrier to making any future changes to our lifestyle. Being overweight is now the norm and as a society we must recognise our bodyweight before we can realistically begin to make positive changes, especially for our children.”

For any successful behaviour change to take place, research in the report also found that awareness is often considered a pre-requisite. However, with adults or carers not recognising that they or someone they care for is an unhealthy weight, they are unlikely to seek health information and help from health professionals.

“Bodyweight is an extremely sensitive, personal issue in our culture and clearly there are many challenges to address when tackling it but one positive change which would help to remove the stigma is to have our body weight status measured routinely”, added Dr. Foley-Nolan. “Among children, assessing body weight should be viewed in the same way as hearing or sight tests, as a measure of a child’s developmental progress and not in any way as a criticism of parenting”. 

“The recommendations from last week’s Seanad Public Consultation Committee Report on cancer and lifestyle are to be welcomed, as one third of cancers could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight. However, we need greater emphasis on raising awareness among adults and parents of their weight status and that of their children, and the associated health risks of cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease”, added Dr Foley-Nolan.

The report “Bodyweight Perception on the island of Ireland” is available to download from the safefood website,

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact

Rachel Ahearne / Rachel Ahearne WHPR

01 6690030 / 085 7086877 (OD) / 087 1340390 /


Dermot Moriarty safefood

+353 1 448 0600 / 086 381 1034 or


¹Growing Up in Ireland Report on Overweight and Obesity (ESRI/Trinity College Dublin; 2011)

²National Teens Food Survey (2005-6)(Hudson, McGloin et al. 2011)

³IUNA National Adult Nutrition Survey 2011

Editors Notes

According to the IUNA National Adult Nutrition Survey 2011, among 18-64 year olds, showed that:

  • 37% were overweight (44% men/31% women) and 24% were obese (26% men/21 % women)

  • The prevalence of obesity in 18-64 year old adults has increased significantly since 1990 from 8% to 26% in men, and from 13% to 21% in women.

In the past twenty years men have gained an average of 8kg (nearly 18lbs) and women have gained an average of 5kg (over 11 lbs)

The Survey of Lifestyle, Attitudes and Nutrition (SLÁN 2007) of adults aged 18+ in ROI found that 60% of respondents had an average waist circumference in the “at risk” zone for obesity (>37 inches for men and > 32 inches for women)

In Northern Ireland, 61% of adults aged 16+ were overweight or obese (Health Survey Northern Ireland, 2012)

Research commissioned by safefood found that less than four in ten adults believe they are overweight themselves, while 81% of men thought their waist size was in the ‘normal’ range.

(Omnibus survey of 1,948 adults on the island of Ireland (safefood/Millward Brown Lansdowne; April 2011)

The annual cost of overweight and obesity on the island of Ireland has been estimated to be €1.64billion euros (€1.13billion Republic Of Ireland; €510 million Northern Ireland).

In the Republic of Ireland, 35% of total costs (€398 million) represented direct healthcare costs i.e. hospital in-patient; out-patient; GP and drug costs. However, two thirds (65%) of the economic costs were indirect costs in reduced or lost productivity and absenteeism and amounted to €728 million.

(“The cost of overweight and obesity on the island of Ireland”; safefood/University College Cork; 2012)