A new study published in the Journal of Child Development found that childhood obesity can affect a child’s math performance and social skills.
Researchers at the University of Missouri followed over 6,000 children from kindergarten through the fifth grade. Data collected for the study included information from parents on the family’s dynamic and reports from teachers on the child’s academic and social progress.
The height and weight of each participating child was also monitored throughout the longitudinal study.
Findings showed that obese children performed worse on math tests from first to fifth grade in comparison to children who were not overweight.
"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," said Sara Gable, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at University of Missouri and lead author of the study.
Study authors reported that poor math performance can be an influential factor in determining an obese child’s emotional well-being. Many obese children reported feeling sadder, lonelier, and more anxious than children of healthier weights.
The population of obese youth has tripled since 1980 with 12.5 million children and teens classified as obese by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.