Intellectual disability is associated with increased risk for obesity in a nationally representative sample of U.S. children

Mary Segal, Misha Eliasziw, Sarah Phillips, Linda Bandini, Carol Curtin, Tanja V.E. Kral, Nancy E. Sherwood, Lin Sikich, Heidi Stanish, Aviva Must

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44 Scopus citations


Background Data on obesity prevalence in children with intellectual disability (ID) are scarce. Objective We estimated rates of obesity among children aged 10-17 years with and without ID in a nationally representative dataset that included measures of child weight and ID status, as well as family meal frequency, physical activity, and sedentary behavior. Methods Chi-square tests compared prevalence of obesity, demographic and behavioral characteristics between children with and without ID as reported in the 2011 National Survey of Children's Health. Tests for interaction in logistic regression models determined whether associations between obesity and behavioral characteristics were different between children with/without ID. Results Obesity prevalence for children with ID was 28.9% and 15.5% for children without ID. After adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity and poverty level, the odds ratio was significantly 1.89 times greater among children with ID than among those without ID (95% CI: 1.14 to 3.12). Among children with ID, 49.8% ate at least one meal with family members every day compared to 35.0% without ID (p < 0.002), and 49.5% with ID participated in frequent physical activity compared to 62.9% (p < 0.005). Prevalence of obesity was higher among all children who ate family meals every day compared to fewer days per week, and the effect was significantly more pronounced among those with ID (p = 0.05). Conclusions Prevalence of obesity among youth with ID was almost double that of the general population. Prospective studies are needed in this population to examine the impact of consistent family mealtimes and infrequent physical activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)392-398
Number of pages7
JournalDisability and Health Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Disclosures: The authors do not have any relevant conflicts of interest to disclose. A similar analysis was presented in poster format at the 2014 annual meeting of The Obesity Society (TOS). The Secondary Data Analysis Core of the Healthy Weight Research Network for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Disabilities (HWRN) (1 UA3MC25735-01-00) conducted this research as part of our larger research agenda on obesity and its correlates in this population. We thank the other members of the HWRN for their participation in the Network's efforts. Funding was also provided to the last author from NIHDK046200 and to the first author from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development , grant R03HD076588 .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Children
  • Intellectual disability
  • Obesity prevalence


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