3 in 10 elementary to high schoolers overweight or obese amid prolonged COVID-19

SEOUL– Three out of every 10 students from elementary to high schools were overweight or obese last year as the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic kept them from outdoor activities, an education ministry report showed Tuesday.

The rate of overweight or obese students reached 30.8 percent as of 2021, according to the report based on health checkup results from 1,023 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide.

The number marks a 5 percent growth from the last such report compiled in 2019 and the highest level in five years.

Of the total students included in the report, 19 percent were obese, up 3.9 percentage points, while those who are overweight represented 11.8 percent, up 1.1 percentage points.

A ministry official said the higher obesity rate is due to the pandemic that cut down on outdoor activities for students, as well as an increase in students’ intake of high-calorie foods.

The increase in obese students was particularly noticeable among elementary schoolers, with the average weights of male and female students in sixth grade at elementary school rising to 52.1 kilograms and 47.6 kg, respectively, up 3.3 kg and 1.5 kg.

Nearly 59.5 percent of the elementary school students surveyed for the report said they do physically demanding exercise three times a week or more, up 0.81 percentage point from the previous report.

The rate of students surfing the internet or playing video games for two hours a day or longer reached 37.8 percent among elementary schoolers, 64.43 percent among middle schoolers and 54.05 percent among high schoolers.

The numbers mark an increase of 8.74 percentage points, 10.8 percentage points and 15.41 percentage points from the previous report, respectively.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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