Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 361–372 | Cite as

A Multi-Level Examination of the Association Between Older Social Models in the School Environment and Overweight and Obesity Among Younger Students

  • Scott T. Leatherdale
  • Sophia Papadakis
Empirical Research


Few studies have examined how school characteristics are associated with obesity. The purpose of this study was to examine the student- and school-level characteristics associated with being overweight and obese among 12,049 students in grades 9 and 10 (junior students) attending 76 secondary schools in Ontario, Canada. The sample was 49.2% female and the average age was 14.7 years. Overall, 15.0% of the sample was considered overweight and 6.3% of the sample was considered obese. Multi-level regression analysis revealed significant between-school random variation for the likelihood of a junior student (grade 9 or 10) being overweight or obese. For each 1% increase in the prevalence of obese senior students (grade 11 and 12) at a school, the odds of a junior student at that school being overweight or obese increased significantly. Important student-level characteristics included physical activity, screen time sedentary behaviour (e.g., watching television), participation in varsity sports and gender. Future research should evaluate if the optimal population level impact for school-based obesity prevention programming might be achieved by targeting the schools that are putting students at the greatest risk.


Obesity Body mass index (BMI) Physical activity Sedentary behaviour Youth Multi-level model 



Data used in this analysis were drawn from the SHAPES-Ontario project, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care/Ministry of Health Promotion and by Cancer Care Ontario (grant awarded to S. Leatherdale and S. Manske). The project was conducted by the Population Health Research Group at the University of Waterloo, with in-kind contributions from participating Public Health units. The concept for the SHAPES data collection and feedback system was developed by the Canadian Cancer Society’s Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation. Additional support for S. Papadakis on this project was provided from a Learning Opportunities Grant through the Interdisciplinary Capacity Enhancement (ICE) team of Dr. Paul McDonald (PI) at the University of Waterloo funded by the Canadian Tobacco Control Research Initiative (CTCRI). Dr. Leatherdale is a Cancer Care Ontario Research Chair in Population Studies. This manuscript (or corresponding data) have not been published elsewhere or are under consideration for publication elsewhere and none of the authors have any conflicts of interest to report related to this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Population Studies and SurveillanceCancer Care OntarioTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of Health Studies and GerontologyUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.Dalla Lana School of Public HealthUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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