The relationship of school absenteeism with body mass index, academic achievement, and socioeconomic status among fourth-grade children

J Sch Health. 2011 Jul;81(7):417-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00610.x.


Background: Data from a school-based study concerning fourth-grade children's dietary recall accuracy were linked with data from the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) through the South Carolina Budget and Control Board Office of Research and Statistics (ORS) to investigate the relationships of children's school absenteeism with body mass index (BMI), academic achievement, and socioeconomic status (SES).

Methods: Data for all variables were available for 920 fourth-grade children during 2 school years (2005-2006, 2006-2007). Number of school days absent for each child and eligibility for free/reduced-price school meals (SES measure) were provided to ORS by SCDE. Children's weight and height were measured by research staff; age/sex-specific BMI percentile was calculated and grouped into categories. For academic achievement, Palmetto Achievement Challenge Tests scores were provided by the school district. The associations of absenteeism with BMI, academic achievement, SES, and school year were investigated with logistic binomial models using the modified sandwich variance estimator to adjust for multiple outcomes within schools.

Results: The relationships between absenteeism and each of BMI percentile category and SES were not significant (all coefficient p values > .118). The relationship between absenteeism and academic achievement was inversely significant (p value < .0001; coefficient = -.087).

Conclusions: These results support the inverse relationship between absenteeism and academic achievement that was expected and has been found by other researchers. The lack of significant results concerning the relationships between absenteeism and both BMI and SES differs from earlier, limited research. More research to investigate these relationships is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Absenteeism*
  • Achievement*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Educational Measurement / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • South Carolina / epidemiology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data