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Inattention and hyperactivity in children at risk of obesity: a community cross-sectional study
  1. Lorna McWilliams,
  2. Kapil Sayal,
  3. Cris Glazebrook
  1. Division of Psychiatry, Institute of Mental Health, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Lorna McWilliams; mcxlm{at}


Objective There is a link between the symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention and overweight in children. Less is known about the factors which might influence this relationship, such as physical and sedentary activity levels or exercise self-efficacy. The aim of this study is to examine the associations between the symptoms of hyperactivity/inattention and risk factors for adult obesity in a sample of children with barriers to exercise.

Design Children aged 9–11 years were recruited from 24 primary schools that participated in the Steps to Active Kids (STAK) physical activity intervention study. Study inclusion criteria were low exercise self-efficacy, teacher-rated overweight or asthma. Children with high levels of physical activity were excluded. Measures included parent and teacher-rated behavioural and emotional well-being using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, physical and sedentary activity levels, BMI (body mass index) and exercise self-efficacy.

Results Of 424 participating children, 62% were girls and 39% were classified as overweight or obese. As compared with population norms, boys in this at-risk sample were more likely to receive an abnormal teacher-rated hyperactivity/inattention score (OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.01 to 2.17). Children with teacher-rated abnormal hyperactivity/inattention scores reported higher levels of sedentary activity (OR 1.13, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.17), but not physically active activity. The pattern of findings was similar for children with hyperactivity/inattention problems as rated by both parent and teacher (pervasive hyperactivity and impairment).

Conclusions Although BMI was not directly related to hyperactivity/inattention, children with risk factors for adult obesity have more hyperactivity/inattention problems. In particular, hyperactivity/inattention is associated with higher levels of sedentary activity. Higher rates of pervasive hyperactivity and impairment were apparent in this at-risk group.

  • Mental Health

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