DOI: 10.3390/nu16010050 ISSN: 2072-6643

Body Mass Index Trends before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Primary School Students in Split-Dalmatia County, Croatia: A Retrospective Study

Luka Androja, Tonči Bavčević, Anamarija Jurčev Savičević, Damir Bavčević, Jasna Ninčević, Anita Buljan, Diana Nonković, Vitor Rodrigues, Željka Karin
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Within the last decade, childhood obesity has become a serious problem, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research paper aimed to examine whether body mass index (BMI) was higher during the pandemic (2020–2022) than in the pre-pandemic period (2012/2013–2019) using trends related to sex, urban–rural area, and physical activity (PA). This study included data from physical examinations of an entire population of primary school children from Split-Dalmatia County (Croatia) over a period of 10 years. There were 103,804 students from the first, fifth, and eighth grades who participated in the analysis. During the pandemic, the BMI of all the students increased, except for eighth-grade girls. Generations of eighth graders have had significantly different BMIs throughout the past decade. We found that first graders were overweight and obese in urban areas, while in rural areas, this problem was experienced by upper grades. Girls were more overweight and obese in the first and eighth grades, but boys experienced this more in the fifth grade. Reduced PA influenced an increase in BMI in both sexes, especially in girls. During the pandemic, this situation became worse. This study could be useful to experts for the creation of new policies for Split-Dalmatia County and surrounding regions that are similar economically and culturally.

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