Obesity impairs academic attainment in adolescents: findings from ALSPAC

James Boyle, Josephine Booth, Andy R. Ness, Phillip Tomporowski, Carol Joinson, Sam D. Leary, John Reilly

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Background: Obesity may be associated with academic attainment, however the extent to which this is related to psychological factors is not known. The present study examined whether obesity at age 11 is longitudinally associated with academic attainment after controlling for a wide range of confounders. Method: 5966 participants (46.2% male) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) attended a research clinic at 11 years old and were categorised into healthy-weight, overweight or obese. Data linkage was performed with nationally administered school assessments at age 11, 13 and 16 years. Results: 14.5% of females and 16.3% of males were obese at 11 years old, with smaller proportions overweight (females = 13.1%; males= 13.5%). Regression analyses found that, in females, after controlling for confounders, those who were obese were predicted to have lower academic attainment than participants of a healthy weight at age 11 (Beta = -1.35, 95% CI = -3.17 to 0.48), age 13 (Beta = - 3.71, 95% CI = -6.38 to -1.04) and age 16 (Beta = - 0.26, 95% CI = -0.47 to -0.05). The same pattern was not observed when comparing those who were overweight. While similar associations were observed in males at 11 (Beta = -2.52, 95% CI = -4.78 to -0.26) associations were smaller at 13 (Beta = - 1.59, 95% CI -4.76 to 1.58) and 16 years (Beta = - 0.08, 95% CI = -0.33 to 0.16). Conclusions: Obese adolescent girls achieved lower grades in both the short and long-term, however being overweight was not as detrimental. Results were apparent even after controlling for Background: Obesity may be associated with academic attainment, however the extent to which this is related to psychological factors is not known.
The present study examined whether obesity at age 11 is longitudinally associated with academic attainment after controlling for a wide range of
confounders. Method: 5966 participants (46.2% male) from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) attended a research clinic at 11 years old and were categorised into healthy-weight, overweight or obese. Data linkage was performed with nationally administered school assessments at age 11, 13 and 16 years. Results: 14.5% of females and 16.3% of males were
obese at 11 years old, with smaller proportions overweight (females = 13.1%; males= 13.5%). Regression analyses found that, in females, after controlling for confounders, those who were obese were predicted to have lower academic attainment than participants of a healthy weight at age 11 (Beta = -1.35, 95% CI = -3.17 to 0.48), age 13 (Beta = - 3.71, 95% CI = -6.38 to -1.04) and age 16 (Beta = - 0.26, 95% CI = -0.47 to -0.05). The same pattern was not observed when comparing those who were overweight. While similar associations were observed in males at 11 (Beta = -2.52, 95% CI = -4.78
to -0.26) associations were smaller at 13 (Beta = - 1.59, 95% CI -4.76 to 1.58) and 16 years (Beta = - 0.08, 95% CI = -0.33 to 0.16). Conclusions: Obese adolescent girls achieved lower grades in both the short and long-term, however being overweight was not as detrimental. Results were apparent even after controlling for confounders, suggesting that psychological factors such as depressive symptoms and IQ cannot fully account for observed associations. These findings indicate that obesity has detrimental effects on educational attainment which may have important implications for both research and policy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013
EventJoint Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Cognitive and Developmental Sections - University of Reading, Reading, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sep 20136 Sep 2013

Conference

ConferenceJoint Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Cognitive and Developmental Sections
Abbreviated titleCogDev2013
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityReading
Period4/09/136/09/13

Keywords

  • obesity
  • academic attainment
  • weight status
  • childhood obesity

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    Boyle, J., Booth, J., Ness, A. R., Tomporowski, P., Joinson, C., Leary, S. D., & Reilly, J. (2013). Obesity impairs academic attainment in adolescents: findings from ALSPAC. Paper presented at Joint Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Cognitive and Developmental Sections, Reading, United Kingdom.