Danish children born to parents with lower levels of education are more likely to become overweight

Acta Paediatr. 2014 Oct;103(10):1083-8. doi: 10.1111/apa.12722. Epub 2014 Jul 7.


Aim: Little is known about whether the socio-economic status of parents is linked to their children becoming overweight. This study examined the association between parents' educational level and overweight Danish children in a nationally representative sample.

Methods: Body mass index was calculated for a random sample of 512 children aged from four to 14 from the Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity 2005-2008. Their parents provided weight and height data during an interview, together with details of their own educational level. Children were classified as overweight/obese in accordance with the International Obesity Task Force. Frequency estimates of prevalence and logistic regression models were used to correlate childhood overweight/obesity with the mothers' and fathers' educational levels as the main outcome measures.

Results: Danish mothers tended to be more highly educated than fathers and their educational level was inversely associated with their child being overweight, especially if it was a boy. However, the highest educational level of the parents was the only significant educational variable, suggesting that education was associated with overweight children irrespective of the gender of the parent.

Conclusion: Public health initiatives should target parents with low educational levels to prevent, and reduce, social inequality in overweight children.

Keywords: Childhood obesity; Maternal education; Paternal education; Scandinavia; Socio-economic status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Parents
  • Young Adult