Weight-related behaviors when children are in school versus on summer breaks: does income matter?

J Sch Health. 2015 Jul;85(7):458-66. doi: 10.1111/josh.12274.


Background: Income disparities in US youth in academic achievement appear to widen during the summer because of discontinued learning among children from lower-income households. Little is known about whether behavioral risk factors for childhood obesity, such as diet and physical activity, also demonstrate a widening difference by income when children are out of school.

Methods: Data from US children in grades 1-12 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2008 (N = 6796) were used to estimate screen time, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), and consumption of calories, vegetables, and added sugar. Linear regression was used to compare among children of households ≤185% and >185% poverty, as well as during the school year versus on school breaks.

Results: Children surveyed during summer breaks consumed fewer vegetables (-0.2 cups/day) and more added sugar (+2.1 teaspoons/day), were more active (+4.6 MVPA minutes/day) and watched more television (+18 minutes/day). However, the nonsignificant interaction between school breaks and income indicated that lower-income students were not "less healthy" than higher-income students during the summer breaks.

Conclusion: Obesity-related risk factors were more prevalent during the summer and among lower-income youths, but the income disparity in these behaviors was not exacerbated when schools are not in session.

Keywords: diet; income disparity; obesity; physical activity; school health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys / statistics & numerical data
  • Obesity / economics*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data*
  • Seasons*
  • Students / psychology
  • Students / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Young Adult