Young people * Healthy living

Girls' waistlines increase by 8cm in 30 years

Girls waistlines increased by 8cm in 30 years Boys have also grown in size

Girls' waistlines are 8 cm bigger than their counterparts 30 years ago, a survey has found.

The average 11 year-old girl's waistline now measures 70.2cm compared with 59.96cm in 1978. However, girls are also taller, with an average height of 148.78cm, compared with 146.03cm 30 years ago.

The figures are based on measurements from 2,500 children aged 4 to 17, taken in 2009-10, using a 3D body scanner. The measurements were then compared with those taken from more than 8,000 children in 1978.

Boys have also grown in height and width. The average 11-year-old boy is now 148.18cm tall, an increase of 4cm compared with 30 years ago, with a 7cm bigger waistline.

Select Research, who carried out the survey, called Shape GB, say the findings suggest that changes in body shape between boys and girls occur at a much earlier age than is often assumed by retailers.

Many retailers currently label a five-year-old boy as being an average height of 110cm. But according to the findings, the average height of a five-year-old boy is 115cm, which means that many parents need to "buy up" to get clothes that will fit children properly.

Richard Barnes of Select Research said the data could also help with the measurement of obesity in the future: “The increases in waist circumference since 1978 show that children have got bigger. However, increases in height and chest size show that children in the UK have grown over the years in many ways.

"Using BMI to measure obesity in children should not be relied upon as an accurate indicator of risk to health as both components, height and weight, are variables.

"Measuring body shape in 3D and where a child’s weight is distributed, may provide us with new insights on the actual risk to health and change perceptions of what health interventions are required.

"Shape GB is a survey for retailers, but we will be using the data in due course to develop BMI thresholds for childhood obesity."

This article was published on Thu 14 April 2011

Image © Vangelis Thomaidis -

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