Understanding the Relationship between Psychological Problems and BMI Development: UK Millennium Cohort Study

John Houghton , University of Southampton

For the UK’s youth, the obesity and mental health crises are the country’s most urgent health epidemics. It is well established that a relationship exists between psychological problems and childhood overweight, however less is known about how this relationship changes as children age, and the factors that mediate the relationship between the two. This study uses a series of growth curve models with data from the UK’s Millennium Cohort Study to analyse the relationship between psychological problems and children’s BMI development. First, this study will explore how the relationship between psychological problems and BMI changes as children age. Secondly, this study shall consider whether the relationship between psychological problems and BMI is mediated by the withdrawal from physical activity. It is hypothesised that children with psychological problems experience greater increases in BMI because they are reluctant to participate in sports and physical activities that require social interaction with other children. Preliminary analysis shows that children with psychological problems are predicted to have higher BMI scores, and experience a higher rate of acceleration in BMI growth as they age, compared to those without psychological problems. This sets the scene for the next stage of analysis, that will test the hypothesis that the acceleration in BMI growth among those who possess psychological problems is mediated by withdrawal from participation in sports and physical activities. Forthcoming analysis shall also lag the variable for psychological problems behind BMI scores to explore how earlier psychological problems are associated with later BMI development.

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 Presented in Session 84. Obesity: Trends, Causes, Consequences