Irish Journal of Medical Science (1971 -)

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 29–34 | Cite as

Obesity, diet and lifestyle in 9-year-old children with parentally reported chronic diseases: findings from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal child cohort study

  • Michael P. FitzgeraldEmail author
  • Kerrie Hennigan
  • Clodagh S. O’Gorman
  • Laura McCarron
Original Article



The incidence and prevalence of childhood chronic disease is increasing worldwide. Obesity, poor diet and lifestyle may be more prevalent in children with a chronic disease than in their healthier contemporaries. The Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study is a nationally representative cohort study of children living in the Republic of Ireland. The study has collected information from 8568 9-year-old Irish children on their experiences within their families, childcare settings, schools and communities, and how these impact on all aspects of children's development.


This study aims to establish the prevalence of parentally reported chronic disease in children in Ireland and to describe their diet and lifestyle.


This study analyzed data from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal child cohort study and compared the diet, lifestyle and prevalence of obesity in children with and without a parentally reported chronic disease.


Overall, 954 parents in the sample (11.1%) reported that their child had a chronic illness and 43.4% of these children are hampered by it in their daily activities. Respiratory disorders were the commonest type of chronic disease (46%) reported. Children with a chronic illness were more likely to be overweight or obese (32.9% compared to 25.0% of those without a chronic illness, p < 0.001). Children with chronic illness were also found to have a poorer diet, take less exercise and experienced significantly more social isolation than their peers (all p < 0.05).


Public health measures to address diet and lifestyle choices need to be cognisant of the needs of children with chronic diseases and tailor activities offered to be inclusive of all children. Medical professionals having contact with children with chronic conditions need to remember to reinforce the importance of diet and lifestyle whenever possible and to explore with families solutions to barriers to making healthy diet and lifestyle choices.


Activity Chronic disease Friends Sedentary Growing up in Ireland Obesity Paediatric Prevalence Quality of life 



We acknowledge the contributions of Prof Ailish Hannigan and Dr. Helen Purtill, biostatisticians at the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick.


The authors of this paper received no funding for its creation however Growing Up in Ireland is a government-funded study of children being carried out jointly by the ESRI and Trinity College Dublin.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

No animals were involved in this study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Growing Up in Ireland is being conducted under ethical approval from the Health Research Board’s Research Ethics Committee. This involves a rigorous ethical review of each part of the study including international reports on the project’s design and content.

Informed consent

Detailed information sheets were prepared for all potential participants in Growing Up in Ireland, including parents, children, teachers, principals, non-resident parents and regular carers. These sheets described the type of information that would be gathered, what would be involved for participants, the longitudinal nature of the study and details about the researchers and funding bodies. All participants were informed of the voluntary nature of the study and of their right to refuse to answer any questions that they did not wish to answer. Signed consent was obtained from a parent/guardian and the Study Child concerned before any data were collected about that child.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael P. Fitzgerald
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kerrie Hennigan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Clodagh S. O’Gorman
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Laura McCarron
    • 1
  1. 1.The Ark, University HospitalLimerickIreland
  2. 2.Graduate Entry Medical SchoolUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  3. 3.Health Research InstituteUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland

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