The School child Health, Wellness and Lifestyle Survey 09



During 08-09, the Apollo Hospitals Group through its Wellness Company, undertook a series of Wellness Surveys covering over 50 Schools and 40,000 children from classes 6-12. The study was largely confined to the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, but also covered a few schools in UP, and Bihar. A more comprehensive study is planned for 09.


Our School survey indicates, that when compared with the Adult survey, which also conducted in 09, (covering 100,000 adults from all states), the Indian School Child is less healthy than the Indian Adult in most aspects of Health.


Medical Aspects


It’s difficult to compare the medical status of Adults with that of Children, especially since medical parameters differ between Adults and Children. But by looking at the table below what we can say with some emphasis, is that the Health of our School Children should never be as bad as it is. For example while 31% of Adults are on daily medication for Hypertension, Diabetes etc., we found that during the Survey period, 33.55% of children were on medication for ailments such as Cough, Cold, Fever, Worms etc. Another significant finding is the Family history and genetic disposition component. When we surveyed Adults for a family history of Cardiac Ailments, Cancer, High Blood Pressure and Diabetes, we discovered that the family disposition was 45%. When we asked children the same question we found the family disposition to these ailments was 66.91%, meaning that in one generation, the risk for theseLifestyle related Chronic Ailments had risen by 21.91%



Adult (%)


Family History









Existing Ailments



Poor eyesight



Dental problems



Routine Checkup



Poor Health Status



Incomplete Immunization




3% of the Adults surveyed were admitted into hospital during the year prior to the survey, the figure for children was 11.75%, 45% of the Adults wore spectacles, as against 33% of the children surveyed. Imagine what this figure will be when these children grow into adulthood. 22% of Adults had dental problems as compared to 30.00% children, which is quite alarming, since most of the children surveyed had long, since gone past their milk teeth phase.


A fundamental rule of good health is to visit the doctor each year for a routine check up, whereas 75% of Adults had done this, more than 50.95% children had not visited their doctors during the preceeding year, and 23.78% were found not to have completed their vaccinations and Immunization courses. Considering these findings  and considering that 33.76% Children were defined as being poor health, we are led to conclude that unless some changes are made, the current batch of Indian Children, will have poorer health when adults, than the current batch of Indian adults.


Food and Nutrition


Besides energy requirements, food is so important in children for mental as well as physical growth. Our survey found that inspite of Children scoring high on knowledge related to Food (80.84% scored high marks in knowledge,) yet 29.16% of our children had appallingly disbalanced diets. Except for the fact that more adults were overweight (61% Adults as opposed to 39.37% Children) in all other aspects of Nutrition, children fared far worse than Adults.



Adult (%)

Children (%)







Low protein intake



Low fruits and vegetables



Insufficient Milk intake



Excess fat intake



Excess Sugar intake



Frequently eat out



High Commercial food intake



Irregular eating





The majority of Urban Children  are non vegetarian at 66.74%.Yet inspite of this 49.37% of our children have a relatively low protein intake, meaning that the vegetarians did not have dhals, gram etc on a daily basis and beyond this, the non vegetarian mostly ate meat only once or twice a week. Whereas protein is important for all round development and growth, Calcium, richly contained in milk, is vital for strengthening bones and teeth etc. The earlier medical table indicated a high percentage of dental problems, 30% in children. This could be due to the fact that about 31.03% School children drink less than 2 cups of milk daily and about 37.28% of them eat sweets, desserts and such foods almost daily. While 34% of adults do not eat fruits and uncooked vegetables daily, the defaulting children in this category are 42.52%. Added to this a high fat intake of butter, cheese, ghee etc eaten almost daily by 46.37% children –and you have the classic making of a future Cardiac Calamity.


 To make matters worse, while 12% of adults make pizzas, hamburgers and takeaways a staple diet , the major patronage of this western cuisine came from 32.22% of the children polled, who ate such foods as a major meal at least three meals a week. In addition eating away from home is also preferred mode of dining with children. 35.00 % Adolescents ate out at a Restaurants and fast food centres more than twice a week as opposed to 19.55% School children and 16% Adults. At one time eating meals regularly, at meal timings was the done thing, our Survey indicated that 61.78% of children ate irregular meals, had no fixed meal timings and snacked between meals.


Fitness and Exercises



Adult (%)

Child (%)







No games/Exercises



Poor Stamina



Poor strength



Poor flexibility





Looking at the chart above, one realizes that adults fare terribly when it comes to physical fitness, but what one notices simultaneously is that our children should have fared much better.


 67% of Adults were found to be physically unfit for their ages , 66% were sedentary and currently did not participate in any physical activity and 54% had not exercised for the last several years .This is no example to set  for children, but this is one example that many children are adhering to, and we have an equally dedicated group of 36.58% children who are physically unfit, 29.74% who spent 4-6 hours a day watching TV and 29.74% who have neither played games nor exercised for the last several years. The picture of the future is very bleak for our Couch potato Children. 62.91% became breathless when climbing stairs, 30.03% have poor muscular strength and shape and 42.84% who already have poor joint mobility, are doomed to a future of arthritis and osteoporosis, unless something is done to change things.


My best suggestion is that games and sports must be made compulsory in all schools and that physical fitness test should form a part of the School evualtion system. We owe our children nothing less than a lifetime of physical fitness and good health, and the best way to achieve anything worthwhile is for us as parents to set an example.


Stress and Tensions


It is a failure of colossal proportions that our children have higher levels of Stress than us adults and parents, as shown in the table below. 64.84% of the children surveyed indicated that they faced one or more problems (personal, academic or otherwise) that had persisted and to which they saw no solution, and 33.30% felt high levels of stress and tension coming from all areas.






High Stress



Work /Studies Stress



Home Stress



Social Stress



Daily hassles







The fact that our children have higher levels of Stress than us is bad enough, but a deeper analysis of the factors that contribute to their Stress, has the markings of a family movie gone wrong.


Let’s consider academic stress first. 54.35% of the children found it necessary to have tuitions after School. 35.75% of the children found it difficult to keep pace with the class, not only in studies, but in other activities also. 34.10% children fared poorly in Examinations and 18.80% of the children felt they were at breaking point and unable to cope with their studies. Of the children surveyed 10.43 % were in boarding schools –and here is the good news, 3.50% of the children surveyed were found to have extremely high cognitive scores …. geniuses in the making?


 Home, that heaven of refuge, gives no solace for 35.94% of the children surveyed (the survey covered classes 6-12, (any survey covering colleges will find these figures even higher)) 15.54% of the children got little love and understanding from  extended family members. 39.77% of the children felt that they could not confide in their parents .7.03% of the children came from broken homes, and 8.72 % of the children had suffered the demise of a parent. Of the balance children, 17.16% found that the fights and disagreements at home between family members were unbearable. Add to this 47.28% of children whose day is too full of things to do, (School ,tuition ,family obligations ) and 53.71%  of the children who spend over a couple of hours each day getting to school and back in crowded transport (Auto rickshaws ,buses and trains) and you have a peek into the home life of an Urban Indian child.


We end the chapter on Stress and tensions on a note that further to confirm the tragic findings of an earlier survey (the National Family Health Survey III) which identified that over 50% of the children were victims of abuse and sexual harassment, our survey confirms that 19.81% of children were bullied in School (referred to as ragging in Colleges) and that 24.12% were victims of unwanted, unwarranted and inappropriate attention by adult members.


Sex, Alcohol and Drugs


Unlike Adult surveys that ask a direct question, a child survey needs to be sensitive to a child’s fear of self incrimination when it comes to confirming details of Alcohol, Smoking, Drugs, and Sexual Activity etc. At any rate, the objective of our survey was to identify the Lifestyle of the Urban Indian school child, since we were already aware of the findings of several groups who have done extensive studies on these aspects of Urban Life. However we did ask a few questions and our findings are as follows:-


  • To the question; Do any of your immediate family members indulge in Alcohol, Smoking, Eating paan, or gambling frequently? 22.44% of the children confirmed that this was done in their presence.
  • To the question; Do any of your friends indulge in Alcohol, Cigarettes, Drugs, Reckless Driving and Sexual Activity? 33.56% of the Children confirmed this with a “yes”.
  • To a more direct question framed as follows –Due to the sensitive nature of this question you are at Liberty to answer this question or leave it unanswered. Do you currently, or in the past have you indulged in Alcohol, Smoking, Drugs (hashish, marijuana, cocaine etc) Sexual activity or Reckless driving? 32.13% of the children responded with a yes.


Our survey is not in a position to confirm the percentage of children who associate with each of these activites, but a quick reading of past surveys confirms the following :-



Child Participants







Sexual activity


Reckless driving





Except for the fact that Urban Indian children are physically fitter than their parents, our Survey found that, in all other aspects of health, including Medical, Nutrition, Stress and Dependencies; the Urban Indian Adult was healthier than theUrban child. This is one study in which we only have losers; Parents for their lack of good example and children for their lack of resolve.


Written By:


Prof.Adrian Kennedy