To examine the relationship between childhood and adolescent symptoms of (1) depression, (2) attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and (3) conduct disorder (CD) with adult body mass index (BMI) in a prospective longitudinal study of 3294 community participants in the Ontario Child Health Survey.
One thousand nine hundred ninety-two children aged 4 to 11 years and 1302 adolescents aged 12 to 16 years at study entry in 1983 underwent follow-up in 2000. Body mass index data were available for 1886 adult participants in the year 2000, which comprised the final study sample. Data were collected from youth, parents, and teachers using a combination of parental, youth, and teacher self-report and semistructured interview. Body mass index is a derived variable determined from the self-reported height and weight in 2000.
Adults with depression, ADHD, or CD identified in childhood had increased body weight (BMI = 27.2 kg/m2, 27.7 kg/m2, and 27.9 kg/m2, respectively) compared with their nonaffected peers (BMI = 24.8 kg/m2; p < .001). Greater depressive symptoms in childhood were associated with increased adult BMI among boys (p = .02). Among adolescents, depression and sex interact in the association with adult BMI (p = .01). The association of childhood ADHD with adult overweight was completely accounted for by the effect of comorbid child conduct disturbance (p < .001) for both girls and boys. Greater conduct symptoms were associated with increased adult BMI (p = .04) among adolescent girls.
This epidemiologic study suggests that psychopathology in childhood is associated with increased adult BMI. Early identification of psychiatric illness may present key opportunities for targeted prevention of obesity.