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Adult socioeconomic, educational, social, and psychological outcomes of childhood obesity: a national birth cohort study

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 09 June 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1354
  1. Russell M Viner (R.Viner{at}, honorary senior lecturer1,
  2. Tim J Cole, professor2
  1. 1 Department of Paediatrics, Royal Free and University College Medical School, University College London, London NW3 2PF,
  2. 2 Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London WC1N 1EH
  1. Correspondence to: R M Viner
  • Accepted 6 April 2005


Objectives To assess adult socioeconomic, educational, social, and psychological outcomes of childhood obesity by using nationally representative data.

Design 1970 British birth cohort.

Participants 16 567 babies born in Great Britain 5-11 April 1970 and followed up at 5, 10, and 29-30 years.

Main outcome measures Obesity at age 10 and 30 years. Self reported socioeconomic, educational, psychological, and social outcomes at 30 years. Odds ratios were calculated for the risk of each adult outcome associated with obesity in childhood only, obesity in adulthood only, and persistent child and adult obesity, compared with those obese at neither period.

Results Of the 8490 participants with data on body mass index at 10 and 30 years, 4.3% were obese at 10 years and 16.3% at 30 years. Obesity in childhood only was not associated with adult social class, income, years of schooling, educational attainment, relationships, or psychological morbidity in either sex after adjustment for confounding factors. Persistent obesity was not associated with any adverse adult outcomes in men, though it was associated among women with a higher risk of never having been gainfully employed (odds ratio 1.9, 95% confidence interval 1.1 to 3.3) and not having a current partner (2.0, 1.3 to 3.3).

Conclusions Obesity limited to childhood has little impact on adult outcomes. Persistent obesity in women is associated with poorer employment and relationship outcomes. Efforts to reduce the socioeconomic and psychosocial burden of obesity in adult life should focus on prevention of the persistence of obesity from childhood into adulthood.


  • Contributors RMV formulated the hypotheses, analysed the data, contributed to writing the paper, and is guarantor. TJC supervised the analyses and contributed to writing the paper.

  • Funding RMV is funded by the NHS with part funding by a fellowship from the Health Foundation, UK. TJC is funded by the Medical Research Council.

  • Conflict of interest None declared.

  • Ethical approval Not required.

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