Childhood obesity and academic performance among elementary public school children

Jebaraj Asirvatham, Michael R. Thomsen, Rodolfo M. Nayga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In addition to health problems or increasing the significant risk of health problems, obesity is also negatively associated with several socioeconomic outcomes. Obesity could negatively influence academic outcomes. The relationship between obesity rates and academic performance deserves attention because obesity rates have been steadily increasing over the last few decades. Purpose: Most of the existing studies assess the effect of student obesity on the student’s own educational outcomes. In this study, we examine the relationship in the context of obesity at the student grade level, which allows us to partially examine the influence of stigmatisation. Design & methods: The main variables of interest are obesity rates and academic proficiency rates. We study public school students, grades kindergarten (K) through to 12, in Arkansas. Multilevel methods are employed to account for similar factors at various levels in the school hierarchy, i.e., at the grade-, school- and school district-level. Results: Obesity prevalence is positively associated with the percentage of students performing below proficiency levels in both literacy and maths. Our findings also suggest that stigmatisation experienced by obese children may be one mechanism behind this association. Conclusions: The findings favour the hypothesis that obese students could face greater psychological consequences in school settings with a smaller percentage of obese students and vice versa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalEducational Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan 2


  • Childhood obesity
  • academic performance
  • educational economics
  • health
  • human capital
  • stigmatisation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Childhood obesity and academic performance among elementary public school children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this