Health & Wellness

Childhood Obesity Linked to Poor Math Performance

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri revealed that childhood obesity affects how a child performs in school, specifically in math.

Sara Gable, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri and lead author of the study, shared: “Obesity that persists across the elementary school years has the potential to compromise several areas of children’s development, including their social and emotional well-being and academic performance.”

The study, which involved an analysis of data from more than six thousand children enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, found that children who were obese during the course of the study period had lower math scores in the first through fifth grades, when compared against children who were not obese.

The study gathered information from the study participants, starting from kindergarten, and followed them through the fifth grade. Parents provided feedback regarding family dynamics, while teachers reported on the social skills and emotional well-being of the children, on five different occasions. The researchers then measured the height and weight of the children, and administered academic tests.

In addition to poorer math performance, the researchers also found that overweight children reported feeling sadder, lonelier, and more anxious, than their peers who are of more average weights. The researchers said that the children’s negative emotional state might be contributing to the children’s poor performance in math.

Experts say, however, that while weight may contribute to poor academic performance, there are probably a variety of other factors that also contribute to the overall well-being of an obese child. Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Center, shared: “Obesity does not prevent kids from doing math, but obesity develops in families where there may be less oversight, less education, fewer resources… we certainly can say that obesity affects everything from self-esteem to social standing to mood and even hormonal imbalance, so the likelihood that there would be a whole cascade of effects between weight and math test scores is very high.”

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