Obesity and Academic Performance: A Reason To Worry?

As you may know, weight and body mass index (BMI) inevitably impact a person’s health and productivity. As a result, people pay a lot of attention to the management of their weight from childhood to adulthood. Schools have incorporated physical education into their programs at both elementary and high school levels, and organizations are finding ways to use exercise to improve the productivity of their employees.

What about homes? Parents, too, play a role. Doctors advise expecting mothers to watch their diets at every stage of development. Childcare is the duty of the parents, and it includes making sure one’s child eats right so he or she can maintain a healthy weight and a healthy rate of growth.

While there is plenty of research showing that BMI affects health and socialization, there is less research on the relationship between academic performance and a child’s weight. In this piece, we will look at different pieces of research and draw conclusions about the relationship between weight and performance in school. Regardless of where the research leads us, parents need to know there is always a way out, and there is always a solution.

In a study they conducted in 2006, Ashleshta and Roland examined the link between a child’s weight and his or her social behavior in elementary school. They found different results for boys and girls.

The study showed a significant, negative association between overweight status and social-behavioral outcomes among female children. Meanwhile, male children showed no significant association. However, the study did suggest that being overweight can promote absenteeism among both boys and girls. The study also concluded that both groups of children need careful parental monitoring if they are to do their best in school.

While Ashleshta and Roland focused on social interaction, Yau et al. (2012) found an association between childhood obesity and poor academic performance by studying the structural integrity of their subjects’ brains. This may sound alarming, but the report is simply an indicator that general weight issues adversely affect an individual’s physical and mental functions.

A senior honors project produced by Kayla M. Naticchioni in 2013 showed a negative association between quality of food and academic performance. As the nutritional value of the food in a child’s diet decreases, the chance of obesity increases. The increased risk of obesity negatively affects the child’s academic performance, self-esteem, and other psychological outcomes like behavioral problems.

Carey et al. (2015) also reported a significant negative association between weight status and academic performance. These researchers found that overweight children are more prone to absenteeism, repeating grades, and lower school engagement.    

While these pieces of evidence may be worrying or confusing, the poorer academic outcomes for overweight children can likely be attributed to social and psychological challenges. These challenges may stem from the way they are treated by other children in school.

Parents can help their children feel more comfortable around their peers by providing emotional support to the children, motivating them to attend school and physically active school programs, and encouraging them to be open about their relationships with other children in school.

Ismaheel Akinwale Bio