Obesity increased among junior high school students in Japan from April 2020 through March 2023 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by the National Center for Child Health and Development has shown.

The study analyzed the health checkup data of about 186,000 people who graduated from junior high school between fiscal 2020, which began in April of that year, and fiscal 2022, which was then compared to predicted figures based on data from about 210,000 people who graduated in fiscal 2019 or earlier.

It found that obesity rates had increased for both male and female students since fiscal 2020, with the fiscal 2022 figures for male and female students 0.49% and 0.36% higher than predicted, respectively.

The findings were published in the online edition of the international journal Pediatric Obesity.

The study also showed a trend toward worse uncorrected vision among students. The proportion of students whose uncorrected vision was less than 1.0 was higher than predicted for male students in fiscal 2020 to 2022 and for female students in fiscal 2020 and 2021.

The results are believed to reflect the increased use of tablet computers and smartphones during the pandemic.

Yusuke Okubo, chief of the center's clinical epidemiology division, said that it is necessary to consider a study on the long-term impact of the pandemic on children's health and specific measures to mitigate negative health effects.