A Dundee charity today warned of a growing obesity epidemic among children from deprived backgrounds.
Ann McKenzie, the city-based deputy director of One Parent Families Scotland, said that because mums and dads were increasingly worried about their children’s safety, many don’t allow them outside unless they have a garden.
With kids from poorer backgrounds more likely to stay in flats with no green play areas nearby, their only forms of entertainment are indoors and, as a result, they become susceptible to having an unhealthy lifestyle.
Ann said: “There’s no doubt childhood obesity is rising at a worrying rate, but a lot depends on the area and property that the child stays in.
“If they’re in a house with a trampoline in the back garden, then superb, but if you live in a high-rise flat, you’re not going to want your child outside. You have traffic to contend with to get to parks and then you have to think about the dog muck and needles lying around.
“If they’re not going outside, then they’re most at risk from obesity.”
Without playing outside and “risk-assessing” in childhood, Ann claims some develop problems in later life and find it harder to cope with the outside world. Fiona McCurdy, now 45, of Downfield, was overweight as a child and agrees with Ann about the causes.
Fiona, who was 15 stones as a 16-year-old girl growing up in Monifieth, said: “I kept myself away from people. I wouldn’t go out and about because of the way people looked at me.
“The bigger I got, the more I kept myself to myself and stayed in. I never put myself forward for anything.”
Fiona, who now weighs 13 stones and works as a Team Developer at Slimming World, added: “It affected my life forever. Health-wise, I’ve had to have a heart operation and suffered severe asthma because of my weight.
“Socially, being an overweight child stopped me from being confident and held me back in later life.”
Fiona feels sympathy for children living in Dundee today because there are fewer green areas to play in than ever. She added: “If you walk into any shop in Dundee, I can guarantee there will be games on sale that children can play indoors. However, you’ll rarely see items that can be used outside. You have to go to specific places for sport equipment our whole society these days is geared to stay indoors.”