Associations between overweight, peer problems, and mental health in 12-13-year-old Norwegian children.


Overweight and mental health problems represent two major challenges related to child and adolescent health. More knowledge of a possible relationship between the two problems and the influence of peer problems on the mental health of overweight children is needed. It has previously been hypothesized that peer problems may be an underlying factor in the association between overweight and mental health problems. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the associations between overweight, peer problems, and indications of mental health problems in a sample of 12-13-year-old Norwegian schoolchildren. Children aged 12-13 years were recruited from the seventh grade of primary schools in Telemark County, Norway. Parents gave information about mental health and peer problems by completing the extended version of the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Height and weight were objectively measured. Complete data were obtained for 744 children. Fisher’s exact probability test and multiple logistic regressions were used. Most children had normal good mental health. Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that overweight children were more likely to have indications of psychiatric disorders (adjusted OR: 1.8, CI: 1.0-3.2) and peer problems (adjusted OR: 2.6, CI: 1.6-4.2) than normal-weight children, when adjusted for relevant background variables. When adjusted for peer problems, the association between overweight and indications of any psychiatric disorder was no longer significant. The results support the hypothesis that peer problems may be an important underlying factor for mental health problems in overweight children.