An official report found that the average 18-year-old Chinese male now stands 2cm taller than he did in 2000, while girls of the same age have grown by 1cm.
At the same time, obesity among urban males aged 7-22 increased by a factor of 25 between 1985 and 2014 to 15%, whereas those in rural areas increased 45-fold. Girls haven’t gained weight as fast, though, with young female obesity increasing 12 times over the same period in both rural and urban areas.
"That Chinese youth are getting taller is simply because living standards have been improving," said Liao Wenke, a Ministry of Education official.
"Meanwhile, the problems of obesity… have a lot to do with lack of exercise, which is associated with the heavy study burden and changing lifestyle, such as the popularisation of electronic devices at an early age," Liao said.
Young people are also less fit than in the 1980s, with a “fear of using up study time” given as the top reason for students not to take part in sports. More than 30% of those aged 13 to 15 reported having such concerns.
Due to China’s recently abolished single-child policy, many children are often spoiled and self-centred, and tend to be lonely, the study also found.