Background: Childhood obesity is a serious public health problem and epidemiological studies are important to identify predictive factors. It is the aim of this study to analyse factors associated with overweight/obesity in samples of German children.
Methods: 35,434 five to seven year-old children (50.9% boys) participated in cross-sectional studies between 1991 and 2000 in several rural and urban areas in East and West Germany. Weight and height were measured and body mass index was calculated. International cut-off points, recommended by the International Obesity Task Force, were used to classify childhood overweight and obesity. Predictive modelling was employed to analyse independently associated factors, using logistic regression to adjust for confounding.
Results: 15.5% were overweight, and 4.3% were obese. Female sex, other than German nationality, smoking in the living place and increasing birth weight were found to increase the odds of overweight and obesity, while increasing educational level, living space > 75 m2 and breastfeeding for more than three months were inversely associated.
Conclusion: The findings add to the evidence informing public health action, both through health promotion strategies (promoting breastfeeding, tackling smoking) and wider societal change management (addressing children from migrant families and families with low educational level).