Higher BMI Tied to Peer, Emotional Problems in Children

Higher body mass index at ages 4 to 5 years tied to peer, emotional problems at ages 8 to 9 years

MONDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children at ages 4 to 5 years with a higher body mass index (BMI) show worse peer relations and emotional problems at ages 8 to 9, but not other childhood mental problems, according to a study published online Sept. 19 in Pediatrics.

Michael Gifford Sawyer, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., Dip.Child.Psych., from the University of Adelaide in Australia, and colleagues studied the relationship between BMI and mental health and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) in 3,363 children aged 4 to 5 and later at age 8 to 9 years. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), filled out by parents and teachers, and the parent-reported Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) were used to evaluate mental health and HRQoL assessment, respectively. Adjustments were made for age, gender, baseline SDQ or PedsQL scores, and maternal characteristics.

The investigators found that a 1-standard deviation (SD) increase in BMI at age 4 to 5 years was correlated with increased odds of abnormal scoring in the SDQ peer problems scale in parent and teacher reports at age 8 to 9 years (1.15 and 1.20, respectively). Children with scores above the at-risk cut-off on the PedsQL social problems scale had an odds ratio of 1.17 for each 1-SD increase at ages 4 to 5. The likelihood of teacher reports of childhood emotional problems also increased.

"Higher BMI in children aged 4 to 5 years was positively related to poorer peer relationships and teacher-reported emotional problems but not to other childhood mental health problems, in these children at 8 to 9 years of age," the authors write.

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