British children are up to 7cm shorter than children of the same age in other countries, a new study shows as Kier Starmer calls for action on child health

How do your kids measure up?

two boys comparing heights
(Image credit: Getty Images)

British children are 'getting shorter' with five-year-olds up to 7cm shorter than children of the same age, a new study shows.

In recent years there's been a huge shift in children's mental health, from how to talk about it to how to manage it. While symptoms of anxiety and low self-esteem can be worrying for parents, child obesity among youngsters could be contributing to their mental health problems.

It's easy to take your eye off the ball and focus less on your child's weight than you did when you were pregnant monitoring the baby weight chart, after all, no midwife or hospital doctor is checking up. The UK is estimated to have more obese children than France, Germany, Poland and Slovenia and it's thought to be contributing to the increasing number of shorter children in Britain.

According to the National Institute of Health, while it's true that obese children are usually taller for their age and mature faster, they don't tend to get any taller when they reach adulthood, as "excess adiposity (the state of being fat) during early childhood influences the process of growth and puberty."

The issue surrounding child growth has been addressed by Labour leader Kier Starmer, who shared the grim findings in which a report claims the height of the average five-year-old has fallen 27 places in international rankings over the last three decades, with the average five-year-old boy falling by 33 places. The average girl is 11.7cm tall and boys are 112cm, according to data collected by NDC Risk Factor Collaboration.

Mr Starmer said, "At the heart of all of the policies we’re announcing today is a focus on prevention, promoting good health amongst kids, and making sure that we arrest this decline in our country.

"When you look at the OECD tables, and you look at the height of children, which is an indicator of their health, their nutrition and their exercise, we’re slipping down the international rankings for boys and girls. We are literally not standing as tall as we did on the world stage. And I think this is embarrassing."

two brothers comparing their height against a height measure

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In comparison, children of the same age living in Bulgaria are much taller, with the average boy standing at 120cm and the girls 118cm and you can see the comparison of boys heights from other countries in a graph devised by ITV.

The report claims children are becoming more obese and less happy, and Labour leader Kier Starmer is calling for action and has revealed his plan to "create the healthiest and happiest generation of children ever in Britain".

Mr Starmer said, "Tooth decay, stunted growth and stalling life expectancy should be consigned to the history books, but instead they’re the reality of Tory Britain. The biggest casualty of the short-term sticking plaster politics of the last 14 years are our nation’s children. My Labour government will turn this around.

“Healthy, happy children is not nice to have, it’s a basic right, with economic urgency. We want the next generation to be chasing their dreams, not a dentist appointment. They should be aspiring to reach their potential, not reach a doctor."

young girl gets dental examination

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Labours child health action plan

Mr Starmer promised, "Labour will end the scandal of children being held back by poor health and regional inequalities, by slashing waits for mental health treatment and hospital appointment, putting prevention first, and fixing NHS dentistry. That’s the future our children and young people deserve, and that’s the future a Labour Government will deliver.”

  • Junk food TV ads would be banned after the 9pm watershed
  • A breakfast club for every primary school
  • Axe ads for Vapes
  • Implement a national supervised toothbrushing programme for three to five-year-olds
  • Recruit more staff to cut waiting lists for child mental services
  • Deliver an additional two million paediatric operations, scans and appointments

In other family news, family hubs providing support to parents and young people have opened in 75 local authorities - here's where to find your nearest centre and is your child not playing with their toys? 3 reasons why and what to do about it.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)