Children's Health Statistics UK

With the impact of COVID-19, we at Chemist4U were interested to know about the state of children’s health in the UK in 2020. So we’ve gathered the latest research, insights and statistics into UK children’s health on a range of factors including long term conditions, obesity, mortality rates, conceptions, oral health, household nutrition and more.

Here’s what we found: 


Long Term Conditions in Children Statistics


Asthma is the most common long term condition among children and young people, with 1.1 million children currently receiving asthma treatment.


The UK has among the highest mortality rates in Europe for children and young people with the underlying cause of asthma.


Emergency admissions for asthma are strongly associated with deprivation despite the prevalence of asthma being evenly distributed. Children and young people living in deprived areas are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of tobacco smoke and environmental pollution, which may contribute to this.


Emergency admissions and deaths related to asthma are largely preventable, though the National Review of Asthma Deaths found that 46% of the children who died from asthma had received an inadequate standard of asthma care. 


Diabetes is an increasingly common long term condition in children and young people. In 2019, there were an estimated 36,000 children in the UK with diabetes under the age of 19, up from 31,500 in 2015.


Type 1 diabetes makes up the majority (90%) of diabetes in children and young people. The prevalence of Type 1 diabetes is not associated with deprivation. Type 2 diabetes is much less common in children and young people.


There has been an improvement in recent years in national average HbA1c in England, Wales and Scotland amongst children and young people with diabetes. However, these are all substantially worse than the recommended target.


Cancer remains a leading cause of death among children and young people. From 2015 to 2017, there was an average of 240 deaths due to childhood cancer per year in the UK.


Between 1990 and 2017, cancer mortality rates among children and young people have steadily decreased across all four nations, across all age groups.


The most common cancer diagnoses in children are:

  • Leukaemia
  • Brain and other central nervous systems (CNS) and intracranial tumours
  • Lymphomas


From the latest available data in 2010, about 75% of children in the UK diagnosed with cancer survived ten years after diagnosis, and 82% survived five years after diagnosis.


Infant and Child Mortality Statistics

Overall, the infant mortality rate in England is going down. Though, the infant mortality rate in the North West and West Midlands is worse than in England overall.


Progress in reducing child and adolescent mortality has stalled in recent years.


Of greater concern still is the lack of progress in infant mortality in England from 2013 to 2018.


Most deaths during childhood occur during the first year of life, particularly the first month of life, or the neonatal period. Neonatal mortality accounts for between 70% and 80% of infant deaths.


Adolescence (10-19 years of age) is the life stage with the second-highest risk of death among children and young people.


Infant mortality has stalled in both the UK and England since 2014, at 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. There was a slight increase to 4.0 per 1,000 live births between 2016 and 2017, which returned to 3.9 per 1,000 in 2018. Even though the changes are small, fluctuations in infant mortality in wealthy countries are very unusual, so it’s a cause for concern.


Mortality rates among one to nine-year-olds in the UK have declined in the previous five years, from 11.8 to 10.0 deaths per 100,000 children in 2014 and 2018 respectively, although the rate of decline in the more recent years has slowed.


The top three causes of death for ages 1- 4 in England and Wales are:

  • Cancer
  • Accidents (including injuries/poisonings)
  • Congenital conditions


The top three causes of death for ages 5 - 9 in England and Wales are:

  • Cancer
  • Respiratory causes
  • Accidents (including injuries/poisonings)


Adolescent Mortality Statistics

Adolescence (10-19 years of age) is the life stage with the second-highest risk of death among children and young people – second only to infancy. The risk of death for young men is notably higher than for young women.


In 2018, there were 1,330 death registrations for young people aged 10 to 19 years across the UK.


The UK has not matched the recent reductions in adolescent mortality seen in comparable wealthy countries, largely due to higher rates of death from non-communicable diseases.


In 2018, the most common causes of death in England and Wales in adolescents were accidental injury, cancer and intentional self-harm (including suicide), followed by neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory disorders.


Conceptions in Young People Statistics

The rate of conceptions among those aged under 18 years has also consistently been decreasing over the past decade in England, Scotland and Wales.


Over the last decade, we have seen a sustained decline in conception rates for 15- to 17-year-old females across England, Scotland and Wales. Between 2008 and 2017, there was a 50% conception rate drop in England, Scotland and Wales.


While the UK continues to see a steady decline in the under-18 birth rate, the rate remains much higher than many similar comparable, western European countries, with the latest comparisons ranking the UK 22nd out of 28 EU countries. 


While not all teenage conceptions are unplanned, teenagers remain at the highest risk of unplanned pregnancy, with over 50% of under-18 conceptions in England and Wales ending in abortion.


Over the last few years, progress in reducing smoking during pregnancy has also stalled, and in Scotland, the proportion of women who reported smoking at the first health visitor review has increased since the last report.


Children's Routine Vaccinations Statistics

In 2017, all four UK nations fell short of the 95% WHO target for the 2nd dose of MMR.


In 2018, The North East was the only region in England that met the WHO target for the 6-in-1 vaccination uptake. 


That year, uptake rates in the UK for the second dose of MMR varied from 86.4% in England, 92.2% in Wales, 91.2% in Scotland and 91.8% in Northern Ireland.


Vaccine uptake rates for both the 6-in-1 vaccine and MMR vaccine are considerably lower in England in comparison to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


Children's Oral Health Statistics

Over the last ten years, children’s oral health has improved at a faster rate in Scotland and Wales than in England. This coincides with the establishment of their national strategies to help improve children’s oral health in those countries. In terms of the prevalence of visually obvious tooth decay among 5-year-old children:

  • England: Between 2008 and 2017, prevalence fell from 30.9% to 23.3% 
  • Scotland: Between 2008 and 2018, prevalence fell from 42.3% to 28.9%
  • Wales: Between 2008 and 2016, prevalence fell from 47.6% to 35.4% 
  • Northern Ireland: Latest available data from Northern Ireland in 2013 shows 40% of children aged 5 had visually obvious tooth decay.


For the past 3 years, tooth decay has been the most common reason for hospital admission among children aged five to nine. For young children, tooth extractions usually require a general anaesthetic and an admission to the hospital.


Childhood Overweight and Obesity Statistics

Tackling obesity continues to be a challenge in the UK, with 34% of children and young people aged 10-11 in England overweight or obese.


The prevalence of children aged 4-5 who are overweight or obese has not changed significantly in any of the four nations since 2006/7.


In 2019, 27% of boys and 20% of girls aged between 11 and 15 years in England were classed as obese. Additionally, in the age group 2 to 10 years old, 15% of boys and 8% of girls were obese.


Childhood obesity is more prevalent among deprived areas.


In England, the prevalence of severe obesity amongst 4-5 year olds was almost four times as high in the most deprived areas (3.8%) than the least deprived areas (1.0%) in 2018. 


In Wales, prevalence among the most deprived areas is also rising - 3.9% of the most deprived 4-5 year olds were severely obese, compared to 1.9% in 2013/14.


In England and Scotland, the rate of overweight or obesity is increasing for the most deprived children at the same time as it is decreasing for those who are least deprived: therefore, the inequality gap is widening.


Nutrition in Households with Children

During a survey of households with children, by number of children, respondents were asked questions relating to attitudes towards food and nutrition in the household.


How often do you look at the calorie content when buying food?


Number of children Always Often Sometimes Never
0 18 27 36 19
1 14 28 41 18
2 15 28 38 19
3 13 25 41 22
4+ 11 26 33 30


Households in England with zero children were more likely to always check the calorie content when buying food. 

30% of households with 4+ children said they never check calories content when buying food


How often do you look at the sugar content when buying food?


Number of children Always Often Sometimes Never
0 17 27 34 21
1 16 29 36 20
2 15 28 36 21
3 11 29 37 22
4+ 16 25 32 28


17% of households without any children in the UK always checked the sugar content when buying food, compared to just 11% of the households with three children, the lowest of any household type.

28% of households with four children or more stated that they never looked at the sugar content of the food they were buying.


Would you say that a healthy diet is an important part of your life?


Number of children Strongly agree Slightly agree Neither agree nor disagree Slightly disagree Strongly disagree
0 4 9 27 40 20
1 4 12 29 39 16
2 4 12 29 39 16
3 4 12 32 35 16
4+ 3 11 34 32 20


Households without any children are the most likely to disagree that a healthy diet is apart of their life (60%)

16% of respondents living in households with two children agreed that a healthy diet was an important part of their life, compared to 13% of the respondents from households without any children, and 14% of those with 4 or more children.


Sources available upon request.

Chemist4U - Site News
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 17 September 2021
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