Obesity impairs academic attainment in adolescence: Findings from ALSPAC, a UK cohort

J. N. Booth, P. D. Tomporowski, J. M. E. Boyle, A. R. Ness, C. Joinson, S. D. Leary, J. J. Reilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective
While being overweight or obese in adolescence may have detrimental effects on academic attainment, the evidence base is limited by reliance on cross-sectional studies with small sample sizes, failure to take account of confounders, and lack of consideration of potential mediators. The present study aimed to address these limitations and examine longitudinal associations between obesity in adolescence and academic attainment.

Design
Associations between weight status at 11 years old and academic attainment assessed by national tests at 11, 13 and 16 years were examined in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Healthy weight was defined as BMI Z score <1.04; overweight as BMI Z score<1.04–1.63; obesity as BMI Z score =1.64.

Participants
Data from 5966 participants with objectively measured weight status were examined: 71.4% were healthy weight (1935 male; 2325 female), 13.3% overweight (372 male; 420 female) and 15.3% obese (448 male; 466 female).

Results
Girls obese at 11 years had lower academic attainment at 11, 13 and 16 years compared to those of a healthy weight, even after controlling for a wide range of confounders. Associations between obesity and academic attainment were less clear in boys. The potential mediating effects of depressive symptoms, IQ and age of menarche in girls were explored but when confounders were included, there was no strong evidence for mediation.

Conclusions
For girls, obesity in adolescence has a detrimental impact on academic attainment five years later. Mental health, IQ and age of menarche did not mediate this relationship, suggesting that further work is required to understand the underlying mechanisms. Parents, education and public health policy makers should consider the wide reaching detrimental impact of obesity on educational outcomes in this age group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1335-1342
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Volume38
Issue number10
Early online date11 Mar 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Keywords

  • ALSPAC
  • Obesity
  • Academic attainment
  • Adolescents

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Obesity impairs academic attainment in adolescence: Findings from ALSPAC, a UK cohort'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this