Objective: 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.
Methods: 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.
Results: 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.
Conclusion: 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.