The research involved thousands of Britons who have been tracked in three major studies since they were born in 1946, 1958 or 1970. A fourth project, funded by the ESRC and a consortium of government departments, is now following the lives of nearly 19,000 children born in the UK between late-2000 and early-2002.
Researchers found that we are getting taller, but also much bigger around the waist. Men born in 1970 had an average height of 179 cm in their 30s compared with 175 cm if born 24 years earlier. Women were 164 cm on average compared with 162 cm.
However, 12 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women born in 1970 were obese by the time they reached their 20s, whereas only five per cent of men and seven per cent of women born in 1946 were vastly overweight at the same age.
Numbers of women drinking alcohol almost doubled in the 1990s, with those in top jobs and with highest qualifications quaffing most. Meanwhile men are drinking less as they get older.
People saying they had asthma in their 30s jumped from three per cent of men and women born in 1946 to eight per cent of men and 10 per cent of women born in 1958. And the figures were 13 per cent for men and 14 per cent for women born in 1970.
Modern mothers are less likely to breast feed their children, says the report entitled 'Changing Britain, Changing Lives' produced by the Institute of Education, which is responsible for three of the year group studies. Information on those born in 1946 is gathered by University College, London.
Health experts say breast feeding helps protect children from developing allergies, which are now on the in
Contact: Becky Gammon
Economic & Social Research Council