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Differences in weight status and energy-balance related behaviors among schoolchildren in German-speaking Switzerland compared to seven countries in Europe

Michael Herzig12, Alain Dössegger3, Urs Mäder3, Susi Kriemler12, Tina Wunderlin12, Leticia Grize12, Johannes Brug4, Yannis Manios5, Charlotte Braun-Fahrländer12 and Bettina Bringolf-Isler12*

Author Affiliations

1 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, Switzerland

2 University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

3 Swiss Federal Institute of Sport, Magglingen, Switzerland

4 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

5 Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2012, 9:139  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-9-139

Published: 29 November 2012



Overweight in children and adolescents have increased significantly and are a major public health problem. To allow international comparisons, Switzerland joined the European study ‘ENERGY’ cross sectional survey consortium that investigated the prevalence of overweight and obesity as well as selected dietary, physical and sedentary behaviors of 10–12 years old pupils across seven other countries in Europe. The aims of the present study was to compare body composition and energy-balance related behaviors of Swiss schoolchildren to those of the seven European ENERGY-countries and to analyze overweight and energy-balance related behaviors of Swiss children according to socio-demographic factors.


A school-based cross-sectional study among 10–12 year old children was conducted in Switzerland and seven other European countries using a standardized protocol. Body height, weight and waist-circumference were measured by trained research assistants. Energy-balance related behaviors –i.e. selected dietary, physical activity and screen-viewing behaviors were assessed by questionnaires. Weight status and behaviors in Switzerland were compared to the seven European ENERGY countries. Within the Swiss sample, analyses stratified by gender, parental education and ethnicity were performed.


Data of 546 Swiss children (mean age 11.6±0.8y, 48% girls) were obtained and compared to the ENERGY- results (N=7.148; mean age 11.5±0.8y, 48% girls). In Switzerland significantly less children were overweight (13.9%) or obese (2.3%) compared to the average across the ENERGY-countries (23.7% and 4.7%, respectively), and were even somewhat lower than the ENERGY countries with the lowest prevalence. Sugar sweetened beverage intakes and breakfast habits of Swiss children did not differ significantly from those of ENERGY. However, the mean time devoted by Swiss children to walking or cycling to school and attending sports activities was significantly higher and screen time significantly lower compared to the other ENERGY-countries. Within the Swiss, sample relatively large and consistent differences were observed between children from native and non-native ethnicity.


The prevalence of overweight and obesity among Swiss children are substantial but significantly lower compared to all other European ENERGY-Partners, probably due to the fact that Swiss children were found to be more active and less sedentary comparing to the rest of the European sample.

Schoolchildren; Overweight; Diet; Physical activity; Sedentary behavior