It’s known that obese children are prone to health hazards such as asthma and diabetes. Now, a new study has found they are more likely to struggle in the classroom as well.
Researchers in the US found that youngsters who were overweight from the ages of three to nine performed worse on a maths test than their slim peers.
The findings, published in the journal Child Development, add to a growing body of research that suggests obesity is linked to poorer academic performance and therefore long-term career prospects.
“Our study suggests that obesity in the early years of school, especially obesity that persists across the elementary grades, can harm children’s social and emotional well-being and academic performance,” lead author Sara Gable, from the University of Missouri, was quoted as saying by ‘Daily Mail’.
The team from the University of Missouri, the University of California in Los Angeles and the University of Vermont looked at a nationally representative sample of more than 6,250 children.
The children were followed from the time they started kindergarten (aged three) through to fifth grade (aged nine). At five time points, parents provided information about their families, teachers reported on the children’s interpersonal skills and emotional well-being, and children were weighed and measured; they also took academic tests.
When compared with children who were never obese, kids whose obesity persisted from the start of the study performed worse on the math test in the first grade. This performance continued through fifth grade, the researchers found.
Girls who were persistently obese were also found to have fewer social skills. The poor maths performance of obese boys and girls could be partly explained because they reported feeling sadder, lonelier and more anxious, the team said.
Obesity is a growing concern in all western countries. In 2010, 30 per cent of children aged two to 15 were classed as either overweight or obese in the UK alone.