Many children skip breakfast, survey finds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am

A significant number of young children in Hong Kong have bad eating and health habits, lack regular exercise and do not get enough attention from their parents, a survey has found.

The poll by the Hong Kong Council of Social Service and the Chinese University's Department of Community and Family Medicine found that more than 20 per cent of the children did not have breakfast every day. More than 30 per cent had fewer than two dairy products and 80 per cent did not eat fruit every day.

More than 80 per cent of the children had not had a dental check in the past 12 months.

The researchers surveyed 6,735 parents of kindergarten children, aged two to five, at the end of last year.

A quarter of the parents said they spent less than 15 minutes talking or playing with their children every day.

'Parents and children tend not to have a close relationship if they don't spend much time together. It may bring family problems,' council chief executive Christine Fang Meng-sang said.

The survey also found children from low-income families fared worse than children from richer families.

Some 48 per cent of children from families with an average monthly income of under HK$5,000 did not have breakfast every day, 10 per cent more than children from families with a monthly income of more than HK$10,000. The gap in terms of spending 15 minutes together each day and having dental checks is 4 per cent and 7 per cent.

Poor children are also more likely to be anxious or depressed, aggressive and have somatic complaints than richer children.

The only category in which they fared better was regular exercise. Some 80 per cent of children from higher-income families had less than 30 minutes of exercise every day, against 75 per cent of children from low-income families.