Objectives: Adolescent obesity is linked to measurable, asymptomatic metabolic and cardiovascular precursors, but its associations with adolescents’ experienced health and morbidity is less clear. The objective of this paper was to determine (1) Prevalence of comorbidities experienced by overweight/obese adolescents; (2) Associations between timing of overweight/obesity and morbidity.
Methods: Data were drawn from the three waves (1997, 2000, 2005) of the Health of Young Victorians Study (HOYVS), an Australian school-based longitudinal study. The main outcome measures were blood pressure; self- and parent-proxy reported health status (PedsQL, global health); self-reported mental health (SDQ), psychological distress (K-10), physical symptoms, sleep, asthma, and dieting; parent-reported health care needs (CSHCN screener) and visits. Regression methods, adjusted for sociodemographic factors, were used to assess associations with (1) Body mass index (BMI) status (non-overweight, overweight or obese) and (2) Timing of overweight/obesity ( never , childhood only , adolescence only , ‘persistent ).
Results: Of the 923 adolescents (20.2% overweight, 6.1% obese), 63.5% were categorised as ‘never’ overweight/obese, 8.5% as ‘childhood only’, 7.3% as ‘adolescence only’, and 20.8% as ‘persistent’. Current BMI status was strongly associated with poorer physical and global health, hypertension and dieting behaviours. Associations were weaker for emotional morbidity, and there was no clear evidence of association with any other variable. Other than dieting, adolescent morbidity was not associated with resolved childhood overweight/obesity.
Conclusions: Despite poorer overall health, overweight/obese adolescents were not more likely to report specific problems that might prompt health intervention. Morbidity was mainly associated with concurrent, rather than earlier, overweight/obesity.