Background: The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children is increasing rapidly worldwide, and this poses as a major health concern. Identifying potential risk factors to which preventive strategies can be implemented is of importance. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of overweight/obesity in 12-year-old children in Vestfold county, Norway, and to map associated lifestyle-, socioeconomic-, hereditary- and health factors.
Methods: This was conducted as a cross-sectional study. Questionnaires were sent to all 12-year-olds (n=3298) in Vestfold county in 2003/2004. The respond rate was 59%. Cut-off values from The International Obesity Task Force were used to group the children as overweight or obese based on their self-reported height and weight. Logistic regression analysis were performed to examine for associations.
Results: The prevalence of overweight+obesity/obesity in our study was 16,5%/2,8% for boys and 12,1%/1,6% for girls. Parental overweight/obesity, parents receiving governmental financial aid, school absence due to illness >2 weeks/year, and a birth weight >3790g, were positively correlated with overweight/obesity in the adjusted analysis. Being a girl, high level of vigorous to moderate physical activity, household income <300 000 NOK and >600 000 NOK, were negatively associated with overweight/obesity. In the adjusted, stratified analysis of the boys, maternal overweight/obesity, parents receiving governmental financial aid, and school absence due to illness >2 weeks/year, were positively correlated with overweight/obesity. Household income <300 000 NOK, and high level of vigorous to moderate physical activity, were negatively correlated with overweight/obesity. In the adjusted analysis of the girls, only parental overweight/obesity, birth weight <3330g, and alcohol experimentation, turned out to be significantly and positively correlated with overweight/obesity.
Conclusion: Our study gives an indication of 12-year-old overweight/obese girls being at higher risk for engaging in health-risk behaviors such as drinking alcohol, than their normal weight peers. The study also indicates that overweight/obese 12-year old boys are more prone to absenteeism than their normal weight peers. This should grant more awareness regarding these issues from parents and other people working with, and meeting these children, and it should grant more studies on the subject. Furthermore, our study indicates that several factors affect boys and girls differently in regards to the development of overweight/obesity. Perhaps future preventive strategies should be tailored separately for boys and girls.