Overweight and obesity in childhood and risk of mental disorder: A 20-year cohort study
Sanderson, K and Patton, GC and McKercher, C and Dwyer, T and Venn, AJ, Overweight and obesity in childhood and risk of mental disorder: A 20-year cohort study, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45, (5) pp. 384-392. ISSN 0004-8674 (2011) [Refereed Article]
Objective: Very little is known about whether overweight and obese children have longterm
risk for mental health problems. This study examined the association between overweight
and obesity in childhood and DSM-IV mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders
in young adulthood.
Method: Participants in a national Australian school survey when aged 7 15 years in
1985 were re-interviewed 20 years later as young adults aged 26 36 years (1135 women,
1108 men). Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from measured height and weight in
childhood and adulthood. Children were classifi ed as overweight or obese based on a
BMI 85th centile for age and sex-specifi c height and weight. Obesity in adulthood was
defi ned as BMI of 30. Twelve-month DSM-IV diagnoses of mood, anxiety and substance
use disorders were obtained from the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. The
relative risk (RR) for each class of mental disorder was estimated for childhood overweight/
obesity versus non-overweight, and for four weight trajectories: non-overweight in childhood
and non-obese in adulthood; overweight in childhood and non-obese in adulthood;
non-overweight in childhood and obese in adulthood; and overweight in childhood and
obese in adulthood.
Results: Childhood overweight and obesity was associated with an increased risk of mood
disorder in adulthood (RR 1.54, 95%CI 1.06 2.23, p 0.03), with a similar risk observed
among girls and boys. When weight in adulthood was taken into consideration, increased
risk of mood disorder was observed only among overweight girls who were obese in adulthood
(adjusted RR 2.03, 95%CI 1.22 3.66, p 0.006), with childhood overweight or
obesity in non-obese adults not associated with any mental disorder.
Conclusions: Childhood overweight may increase risk for mood disorder in adulthood,
especially among overweight girls who become obese women. These results suggest that
prevention of childhood overweight is equally important in both sexes for reducing risk of
diagnosed mood disorder in adulthood.