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OBJECTIVES: To describe trends in reported weight loss attempts among school-aged children and to investigate its sociodemographic determinants. DESIGN: We analysed data of children who participated in the Health Survey for England from 1997 to 2016 (n=34 235). This repeated cross-sectional survey reported weight loss attempts and sociodemographic characteristics. Body weight and height were measured by trained interviewers, and body mass index for age z-score was calculated. Multivariable logistic regression was used to investigate the sociodemographic determinants. SETTING: England. PARTICIPANTS: Children (8-17 years). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Weight loss attempts by year, age group, gender, BMI for age z-score, ethnicity and household income. RESULTS: The prevalence of reported weight loss attempts increased significantly from 21.4% (1997-1998) to 26.5% (2015-2016). The increase was significant for boys, older children, Asian children, children from lower income households and in all categories of BMI for age z-score. Significant predictors of weight loss attempts included having overweight (8-12 years old, OR 4.01 (%CI 3.47 to 4.64); 13-17 years old, OR 1.96 (%CI 1.58 to 2.42)) or obesity (8-12 years old, OR 13.57 (%CI 11.94 to 15.43); 13-17 years old, OR 4.72 (%CI 3.94 to 5.66)) as well as being older, girls, from ethnic minority groups or low household income. CONCLUSION: The prevalence of reported weight loss attempts among children is increasing at a faster rate than the rise in excess weight and includes an increasing proportion of children with a 'healthy' weight. The increase in the prevalence of reported weight loss attempts among children is greatest among subgroups with lower baseline prevalence.

Original publication




Journal article


Arch Dis Child

Publication Date



Child Health, Obesity