Perception of overweight is associated with poor academic performance in US adolescents

Todd A. Florin*, Justine Shults, Nicolas Stettler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: To improve understanding of the mechanisms affecting the relationship between adolescent obesity and poor academic performance, we examined the association of overweight or perceived weight status with academic achievement. METHODS: We performed a cross-sectional study of 14-17-year-olds (N = 11,012) from the nationally representative 2003 Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The main outcome measure was self-reported grades (mostly A, B, C, D, or F). The primary independent variables were medically defined overweight (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 85th percentile), obesity (BMI ≥ 95th percentile), and participants' perception of their weight status. RESULTS: Medically defined overweight youth were less likely to report higher grades in unadjusted analysis (OR 0.67, 95% CI: 0.60-0.76, p < .001) and after adjustment for demographics, depression, television and video game use, and physical activity (OR 0.83, 95% CI: 0.74-0.94, p = .003). Statistically significant results also were seen with medically defined obese participants. Youth who perceived themselves as overweight were less likely to report higher grades (OR 0.82, 95% CI: 0.73-0.92, p = .001) in unadjusted analysis and after adjustment for the same variables (OR 0.79, 95% CI: 0.68-0.91, p = .002). The perception of overweight was a more significant determinant of academic performance (OR 0.81, 95% CI: 0.69-0.95, p = .012) compared to medically defined obesity (OR 0.90, 95% CI: 0.77-1.05, p = .174). CONCLUSIONS: Perceived overweight status is negatively associated with academic performance, regardless of actual weight status. These findings suggest that perception of overweight may be a mechanism for prior results indicating a negative association of obesity and academic achievements, and have implications for the academic health of these adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)663-670
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of School Health
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Academic achievement
  • Child and adolescent health
  • Emotional health
  • Health
  • Health policy
  • Mental
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Philosophy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Perception of overweight is associated with poor academic performance in US adolescents'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this