4 Jul 2013

Warning children's lifespan may be shorter

10:36 pm on 4 July 2013

New Zealand children may be the first generation in over a century to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

One third of New Zealand children are inactive and one third of them are overweight or obese - problems that health academics warn are out of control.

More children are trading in their football boots and outdoor playtime for PlayStation, television and computer games.

Grant Schofield, a professor of public health at Auckland University of Technology, says children are now living a lifestyle that makes them unhealthy, less active and a lot fatter. That leads to health complications and not only cuts life expectancy, but also the chance at a good quality of life.

"When you create an environment where you can sit round the whole day and there's food everywhere, then you end up fat and with the complications of that.

"And we'll be done with that soon - all the adults - we'll get old and die. But we leave that world to our kids and I think that's the thing for most New Zealand adults to ponder is, what sort of world do you want to leave for your children."

Professor Schofield says more parents need to take responsibility of children's actions.

University of Otago professor Esko Wiltshire believes there's still time to stop the trend. He says more children need to be educated about healthier lifestyles, including eating correctly and the importance of exercise.