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Child and Adolescent Psychopathology Predicts Increased Adult Body Mass Index: Results from a Prospective Community Sample

Korczak, Daphne J. MD, MSc*; Lipman, Ellen MD, MSc†,‡,§,‖; Morrison, Katherine MD; Duku, Eric MSc, PStat‡,§,‖; Szatmari, Peter MD, MSc†,‡,§,‖

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: February/March 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 108–117
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000015
Original Article

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.

*Department of Psychiatry, The Hospital for Sick Children, The University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada;

Division of Child Psychiatry,

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences,

§Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics,

Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada;

Department of Pediatrics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.

Address for reprints: Daphne J. Korczak, MD, MSc, Department of Psychiatry, The Hospital for Sick Children, 1145 Burton Wing, Toronto, Canada M5G 1X8; e-mail:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Received May 24, 2013

Accepted September 27, 2013

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins