” Fears that playing outdoors will risk radiation exposure, and other lifestyle changes brought on by the 2011 nuclear crisis, are being blamed for a rise in obesity among youngsters in Fukushima Prefecture.
An education ministry survey released Jan. 23 calculated the percentage of children on a prefectural basis whose body weight is at least 20 percent heavier than normal.
It carries out the nationwide survey each year by randomly choosing children between the ages of 5 and 17 attending kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools.
The latest survey for fiscal 2014 found that 15.07 percent of 9-year-olds in Fukushima Prefecture were 20 percent or more heavier than normal. The figure was much higher than the national average of 8.14 percent, and the highest among all 47 prefectures.
The corresponding figure in Fukushima Prefecture was also the highest among all prefectures for 7-year-olds, 11-year-olds and 13-year-olds.
For 17-year-olds, the figure in Fukushima Prefecture was 13.11 percent, much higher than the 9.48 percent national average and the second highest among all prefectures.
According to the ministry, obese children are most commonly found in the Tohoku region, where winter snow tends to keep youngsters inside.
However, the trend has been especially acute in Fukushima Prefecture since the 2011 onset of the nuclear crisis spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The ministry said this appeared to be because children in Fukushima Prefecture are restricted from playing outdoors due to radiation fears and other associated lifestyle changes.
It is currently engaged in improving physical education. “(However), it will take time until its effects appear,” a ministry official said. ”