The Gateshead Millennium Study (GMS) has conducted two phases of data collection, at age 11-13 and 14-15.  We visited all the secondary schools in the area and saw some of the young people at home too.  We were made very welcome at each school and in individual homes, so many thanks to all who were involved in making our visits so successful.

We really enjoy hearing from the GMS families, and it's great that so many parents and their children wanted to continue taking part in the study and sharing their experiences with us during this important phase of their life.

Age 11-13 years

What did we do?

For this stage of the study we were interested in health, nutrition, and physical activity in adolescence. 525 GMS children took part: we visited most of the children twice at school, or once at home. In the first visit we collected body measurements including height, weight, waist circumference, lung function and blood pressure. We also asked the children to complete INTAKE24, a computer program which asks what they ate and drank the previous day. As before, we were interested in the children's physical activity levels, so the children wore an activity monitor for a week. At the second visit the children completed INTAKE24 for a second time and also answered a questionnaire similar to the one they completed when they were 8-10 years old. The questionnaire covered many different topics, from sports clubs they take part in, to how they feel about different things in their life. As in previous stages, there was a questionnaire for parents about their child's general health, emotions and behaviours. We are grateful to all the parents for completing the questionnaires - your continued support is very much appreciated.

What did we find?

In 2012 when the GMS participants were aged 11-13 years old we visited 12 secondary and 3 middle schools in Gateshead and elsewhere, and made over 80 home visits. 529 children took part, and 509 parents or carers. In addition to that, 303 children also took part in a follow‐up study on food choices.

Physical activity

We found that physical activity within the group had reduced from age 8-10 and the majority of the children’s time was spent sedentary or in activities requiring little energy expenditure:

  • The average amount of time spent active each day was just 32 minutes (down from 37 minutes at age 8-10 and 40 minutes at age 6-8)
  • Only 32 children met the recommendations of 60 minutes physical activity every day (down from 51 at age 8-10 and 59 at age 6-8)
  • Boys were more active than girls
  • Inactive children were fatter than active children

Sports clubs

Children attended a wide variety of sports clubs, including archery, break dancing and water polo. Children were more likely to do a sports club if they had participated in one at primary school, however, children identified many things that made it difficult for them to take part in sports clubs. These included a lack of time due to homework and family commitments, the cost of attending, and not having friends who were also doing the club

  • 168 boys and 147 girls attended a school sports club
  • 211 boys and 165 girls attended a sports club outside school
  • 136 children did both a school- and an outside-school sports club
  • Children who took part in a sports clubs had less body fat than children who did not

Commuting to school

Active commuting to school (walking, cycling, scootering) can help children to increase their physical activity levels. The average journey distance was 2 miles (the shortest distance was 0.1 miles and the longest 17 miles) and average journey time was 17 minutes (shortest 2 minutes and longest 70 minutes)

  • 140 children walked to school
  • 134 children used the bus
  • 91 children were driven in the car
  • There were only 2 cyclists
  • 25 children used a combination of transport methods to get to school

Food intake

We measured the children’s food intake for the previous 24 hours using a computer programme (now revised and available at

  • An average of 1.3 portions of fruit and vegetable portions were eaten daily
  • 18% of the children recorded no portions of fruit or vegetables for the previous 24 hours
  • 7% of the children ate 5 or more portions of fruit or vegetables
  • Fruit and vegetable consumption was not associated with the child’s body weight

Body measurements

At age 11-13 the average height of the children was 1m 55cm, and ranged from 1m 29cm to 1m 78cm. The average weight was 50kg, and ranged from 24 to 112kg.

Of 520 children measured at age 11-13 years, 321 were a healthy weight (61.7%), and 199 were overweight or obese (38.3%).

Age 14-16 years

What did we do?

For this phase of the study we were still interested in diet, physical activity and growth and we caught up with many of the group throughout 2014/2015 either at school or at home. We visited 15 schools in Gateshead and elsewhere, and made over 40 home visits.
As before, we collected body measurements including height, weight, waist circumference, lung function and blood pressure and also asked the young people:

  • to complete a dietary recall using INTAKE24 to find out what they ate and drank in the previous 24 hours;
  • to wear an activity monitor for one week;
  • a number of questions on how they felt about different aspects of their life; and
  • whether they smoked or drank alcohol.

What did we find?

382 GMS children took part in this round of data collection: 178 boys and 183 girls. This was not as many as usual because many were doing exams. Ages ranged from 14.5 to 16.1, and the average age was 15 years.

We thought it would be helpful, not only to look at what we found during this round of data collection, but also how this compared to our previous findings. To do this the information has been presented in graphs and these can be view in our latest Newsletter. The information is for the GMS group as a whole, not for individuals.

Physical activity

From the activity monitors we asked the young people to wear, we were able to work out how active they were across the week.  We found that the amount of time spent sitting increased with age, so by age 15 a large part of the waking day was spent sitting down.  

  • The average amount of time spent active each day was just 31 minutes (down from 32 minutes at age 11-13, 37 minutes at age 8-10 and 40 minutes at age 6-8).
  • Only 21 met the recommendations of 60 minutes physical activity every day (down from 32 at age 11-13, 51 at age 8-10 and 59 at age 6-8).
  • As before, boys were more active than girls.


From the dietary recall the young people completed, we found:

  • Around half of the group (181 out of 363 participants) drank fruit juice every day.
  • Around half of the group had the equivalent of a can of fizzy drink each day, although some did have more.
  • 17% appeared to skip breakfast.
  • An average of a packet of crisps or savoury snacks was eaten per person each day.

Physical and psychological wellbeing

As with all people, we found some young people were happier than others, and that boys and girls had similar average scores for the freedom to decide what to do, relationships with parents/carers, social support from friends and how they felt about school.
However, on average, boys had a higher score of physical wellbeing, such as telling us if they were physically active in the previous week, for example running or biking, for psychological wellbeing, such as feeling in a good mood and happy with how they were in the previous week.

Smoking and alcohol

Most of the young people hadn’t tried a cigarette, but 18% of the group reported that they had smoked a cigarette.  Out of a group of 362, 12 young people reported that they smoked regularly (at least every week).

67% of the young people reported having tried an alcoholic drink, although less than 20% of the group reported drinking regularly (at least every month) but 12 young people were drinking several times every week.



0191 208 8896
Write to:
Gateshead Millennium Study, Human Nutrition Research Centre, Institute of Health & Society, Newcastle University, Baddiley-Clark Building, Richardson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4AX