Obesity Linked to Lower Academic Performance Among Teen Girls

Overweight Teen Girl with FlowerObesity has been linked to a number of health risks such as cardiovascular disease, prediabetes, and many types of cancer. Now a new study by from various universities in the United Kingdom suggests a link between obesity in teen girls and lower academic performance.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one-third of children and teens were considered overweight or obese in 2012. Previous studies have suggested an association between weight and academic performance.

As published in the International Journal of Obesity, the present study sought to clarify the associations between obesity in adolescence and academic attainment. The researchers analyzed data from nearly 6,000 children who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Data included weight status and academic attainment as determined by national tests at the ages of 11, 13, and 16 years old.

Of the total participants in the study, 71.4 percent were of a healthy weight (1,935 males, 2,325 females), 13.3 percent were overweight (372 males, 420 females), and 15.3 percent were obese (448 males, 466 females).

Although an associate between obesity and academic performance was less clear among boys, the link was clear among girls. Girls considered obese at age 11 had lower academic achievement at ages 11, 13, and 16 compared to girls of a healthy weight.

Academic performance was also lower by a grade equivalent to a D instead of a C among teen girls in the core subjects of English, math, and science.

Even after taking compounding factors such as socioeconomic status, mental health, IQ, and age of menses, the link between obesity and academic achievement remained.

States Prof. John Reilly, principal investigator and professor at the University of Strathclyde in the UK, “Further work is needed to understand why obesity is negatively related to academic attainment, but it is clear that teenagers, parents and policymakers in education and public health should be aware of the lifelong educational and economic impact of obesity.”

Adds Dr. Josie Booth, of the University of Dundee, “There is a clear pattern which shows that girls who are in the obese range are performing more poorly than their counterparts in the healthy weight range throughout their teenage years.”

The researchers conclude the study by noting that parents and education and public health policy makers should consider the wide reaching detrimental impact of obesity on educational outcomes among teens.

Another recent study found that obese children and teens who do not get adequate sleep may have an increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Being overweight or obese is also a risk factor for ovarian cancer.


Obesity impairs academic attainment in adolescence: findings from ALSPAC, a UK cohort:
Teen girls: obesity linked to lower academic performance:

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