Posture problems suffered by as many as 60 percent of Latvian school children are being aggravated by the books, water supplies and other essentials they carry on their backs, according to a study commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Science.
At ages when the body is unsuited to prolonged weight bearing, children regularly carry the equivalent of 30 percent of their own weight on their backs, said Valdis Folkmanis, director of the University of Latvia's social pediatrics department.
In one school 60 percent of children had posture problems and across all the schools surveyed 30 percent of 7- to 10-year-olds carried more than the recommended maximum for a healthy child, which is 10 percent of his own body weight, said Folkmanis.
"Children live one day with their mothers, one day with their fathers, one day with their grandparents and carry everything they need. Some carry water because they can't get it at school, and then they need clothes for activities like sports and dancing," said Folkmanis.
Schools must now look at ways to reduce this "very dangerous tendency," he said.
The Education Ministry is now working out recommendations to alleviate the problem, said Artis Jurkevics, spokesman for the ministry.
The study encompassed 43 schools across Latvia.