Research News Flash
A new study found that adolescents with learning and behavioral developmental disabilities (DDs), especially children with autism, are at risk for lifelong health conditions due to high rates of obesity. Data came from parent-reported information collected as part of the National Health Interview Survey and were weighted to reflect the US population; data on 9,600 adolescents 12 -17 years were collected, with over 1,400 of these adolescents identified by their parents as having some form of DD (autism; intellectual disability; attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder; learning disorder/other developmental delay). Compared to adolescents without DDs (13.1% obese), those with all types of DD (20.4%) were 1.5 times more likely to be obese (based on body mass index), and those with autism (31.8%) 2 times more likely. On the other hand, a greater percentage of adolescents with DD (5.6%) were underweight compared to adolescents without DD (3.5%). Prescription drug use and birth weight both had an effect on unhealthy weights. Adolescents with DD and obesity had the highest estimates of health conditions such as asthma, gastrointestinal issues, eczema, and migraine headaches. Strategies for obesity prevention such as consuming a balanced diet, increasing physical activity, and decreasing sedentary time are needed for this at-risk group of adolescents.
Phillips, K. L., Schieve, L. A., Visser, S., Boulet, S., Sharma, A.J., Kogan, M., Boyle, C.A., & Yeargin-Allsopp, M. (2014). Prevalence and impact of unhealthy weight in a national sample of US adolescents with autism and other learning and behavioral disabilities. Maternal and Child Health Journal. February 20. [Epub ahead of print].