ACTION Teens – reveals the problem of unrecognised obesity amongst children and teenagers

by | May 10, 2022 | News

Results from a multinational study, ACTION Teens, reveals the problem of unrecognised obesity amongst children and teenagers.

Unrecognised obesity has significant impact on the lives of children and teenagers by fuelling a growing wave of other chronic diseases, including mental health issues, heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, as well as some cancers and problems in bones and joints. Nearly one in four teenagers (24%) don’t realise they have obesity and neither do one in three of their caregivers, according to a new international study.

Sponsored by Novo Nordisk and presented today at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Maastricht, Netherlands, the ACTION teens study included more than 5,000 12-17-year-old boys and girls living with obesity across 10 countries, as well as over 5,000 parents/caregivers and over 2,000 healthcare professionals. It reveals that although obesity in children has important health consequences, one in three caregivers struggle to recognise obesity in their child at all.

“ACTION teens captures perceptions, attitudes, behaviours and potential barriers to effective obesity care in adolescents living with obesity. More work is needed to drive change in obesity. Four out of five children currently living with obesity will continue to do so as adults. This unsolved public health challenge is affecting far too many young people’s lives, whose health continues to be seriously impacted by obesity as they grow up,” said Stephen Gough, Senior Vice President, Global Chief Medical Office, Novo Nordisk.

Vicki Mooney, ACTION teens study author and Chairwoman of the Irish Coalition for People Living with Obesity (ICPO) and Executive Director of the European Coalition for People living with Obesity (ECPO), said, “The results show us teenagers want to lose weight and improve their health, however, one in three teenagers feel unable to speak to their parents about it and many revert to social media for guidance. It is hard to fathom the pressure for these teenagers, especially as two-thirds believe it is their sole responsibility to lose weight, with many of their parents/caregivers struggling to know how to best care for their child.

The study also reveals that better education is needed for healthcare professionals, with only 13% of doctors receiving advanced training (>1 day with certification or evaluation) in how to manage obesity after medical school.

“The impact of obesity – in children and adults – on individuals, society and our healthcare systems should not be underestimated. There is urgent need for governments and society to recognise and treat obesity as a disease, so that more teens can get the right support to help them live happier and healthier lives,” said lead author Professor Jason Halford, Head of the School of Psychology, University of Leeds, and President of the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO).

How to define obesity

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most common measure used to define if a person has obesity. The NHS provides an online BMI calculator at:

*24% of surveyed adolescents believed their weight to be normal or below normal, 76% believed their weight to be above normal to varying degree.

About the Novo Nordisk ACTION teens study

Action teens is an international study of 5,275 adolescents aged 12-17 living with obesity, 5,389 caregivers of adolescents living with obesity and 2,323 healthcare professionals across 10 countries, including Australia, Colombia, Italy, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey and the UK, designed to identify perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, and potential barriers to effective obesity care. The full research findings are available on request.

About Novo Nordisk

Novo Nordisk is a leading global healthcare company, founded in 1923 and headquartered in Denmark. Our purpose is to drive change to defeat diabetes and other serious chronic diseases such as obesity and rare blood and endocrine disorders. We do so by pioneering scientific breakthroughs, expanding access to our medicines, and working to prevent and ultimately cure disease. Novo Nordisk employs about 47,800 people in 80 countries and markets its products in around 170 countries. For more information, visit