JSNA topic report: children and young people

9. Lifestyle

Obesity and diet

Child obesity is a national and local concern. In Buckinghamshire, there are 835 (18.2%) children in Reception and 1,550 (31.1%) in Year 6 measured as overweight or obese during the school year 2019/20. The risk of obesity increases with age and there is a significantly increasing rate in year 6 children.

A quarter (26%) of year 6 children that are living in more deprived areas are obese, which is significantly higher than the least deprived areas (14%). There are variations by ethnic group with higher rates in Black and Asian ethnic groups for Year 6.

High Wycombe and Wing and Ivinghoe have the highest percentage of Reception children who were overweight or obese. Beaconsfield and Chepping; Missendens and Wing and Ivinghoe have the highest percentage of Year 6 children who were overweight or obese.

This data is pre COVID-19 pandemic, during 2020/21 only a small sample (10%) of children were measured locally. The national analysis of 2020/21 shows unprecedented increases were seen in the prevalence of obesity. Obesity prevalence increased in Reception (from 9.9% in 2019/20 to 14.4% 2020/21) and increased in Year 6 children (from 21% in 2019/20 to 25.5% 2020/21).

The national data also showed the largest increases were seen in the more deprived areas increasing inequalities. More data is needed to know whether this is a long-term increase.

The Public Health England National Diet and Nutrition Survey in 2020 showed that consumption of fruit and vegetables was below the '5 a day' recommendation in all age groups and the average for children aged 11 to 18 years was the lowest at 2.8 per day. It also found free sugars exceeded recommendations for this age group. A local resident survey in the summer of 2020 showed the younger ages (under 30 years) were significantly more likely to say they were eating less healthily during the lockdown (29% compared to 11.7% in other age groups).

Physical activity

Good physical activity habits established in childhood and adolescence are also likely to be carried through into adulthood and there reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases later in life.

In 2020/21 in Buckinghamshire, the levels of physical activity in children were not significantly different to the England average.


Nationally increases have been observed in alcohol consumption, particularly for the 11 to 18 year age group.

In 2019, alcohol and drug use ranked in the top 10 risk factors in Buckinghamshire children aged 5 to 14 years for ill-health and death.

The Buckinghamshire OxWell Health and Wellbeing survey in 2021 found 6.3% of secondary age children said they had an alcoholic drink quite often/most days, which increased to a third in sixth formers.


Second-hand smoking ranked 11th highest for 5 to 14 year olds in Buckinghamshire as a risk factor for the ill-health and death in 2019 (source: GBD data visualizations by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation). According to those secondary school students who responded to the OxWell Health and Wellbeing survey the majority (98.5%) reported they had never or not often smoked cigarettes, this reduced slightly to 93.4% in sixth formers. Nationally, the proportion of 15 year olds who said they were regular smokers in the Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England survey in 2018 was 5%. This has dropped from 21% in 2004. The proportion that said they were occasional smokers was 6% in 2018 and 9% in 2004.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

In 2020, there were lower screening and detection rates for chlamydia, and a lower detection rate for other STIs amongst 15 to 24 year olds living in Buckinghamshire than is observed either regionally or nationally.

  • 6,237 (11.3%) of Buckinghamshire residents aged 15 to 24 were screened for chlamydia infection, compared to 12.5% across the South-East and 14.3% nationally.
  • 452 (816 per 100,000) Buckinghamshire residents aged 15 to 24 were identified as having a chlamydia infection (compared to 1,222 per 100,000 across the South-East and 1,408 per 100,000 nationally)
  • In Buckinghamshire there is a higher rate of chlamydia detection amongst 15 to 24 year old girls (1,116 per 100,000) than boys (524 per 100,000), a difference that is also observed nationally (with 1,889 vs 916 per 100,000)
  • 1,475 (438 per 100,000) Buckinghamshire residents aged 15 to 24 year olds had a positive diagnostic test for an STI other than chlamydia, compared to 461 per 100,000 in the South- East and 619 per 100,000 nationally