[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: To determine the relationship between relative weight and school attendance among elementary schoolchildren.
A total of 1069 fourth to sixth graders from nine elementary schools in the inner city of Philadelphia, PA, were part of an ongoing randomized control trial to assess prevention strategies for obesity. The mean rate of students eligible for free/reduced meals was 82.9 +/- 11.5%. Weight was measured in the second semester of the academic year. Absentee data for the entire academic year were recorded by homeroom teachers. Participants were classified into relative weight categories described by the Institute of Medicine: underweight, normal-weight, overweight, and obese.
ANOVA showed that overweight children were absent significantly more than normal-weight children (12.2 +/- 11.7 days vs.10.1 +/- 10.5 days) (p < 0.05). Linear regression showed that the obese category remained a significant contributor to the number of days absent even after adjusting for age, race/ethnicity, and gender.
These data suggest that in addition to the medical and psychosocial consequences of being overweight, heavier children have greater risk for school absenteeism than their normal-weight peers. As the rate of childhood obesity increases, parallel increases in school absenteeism should be expected.