Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 16, Supplement 2, pp 278–286 | Cite as

Weight and Mental Health Status in Massachusetts, National Survey of Children’s Health, 2007

  • Emily LuEmail author
  • Rashmi Dayalu
  • Hafsatou Diop
  • Elizabeth M. Harvey
  • Susan E. Manning
  • Stella G. Uzogara


This study explores how weight status is related to mental health status among Massachusetts children, aged 10–17 years. We used data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health to examine the association between weight status (body mass index-for-age) and parent-reported mental health status among Massachusetts children (N = 827). Multivariable log binomial regression was performed to calculate the adjusted prevalence ratios (aPR) of three mental health outcomes (behavioral, emotional, and social) as related to weight status, after controlling for covariates including physical activity, sex, race/ethnicity, maternal education, poverty status, special health needs, and neighborhood safety. Almost one-third (32.5 %) of Massachusetts children were either overweight or obese. Sex was a significant effect modifier of the association between weight status and negative emotions. After stratifying by sex and controlling for covariates, the relationship between weight status and negative emotions remained significant among girls (aPR = 1.8, 95 % CI 1.3–2.6). Children who did not exercise at all were significantly more likely to exhibit negative behaviors (aPR = 1.3, 95 % CI 1.0–1.6), negative emotions (boys’ aPR = 3.3, 95 % CI 1.6–6.9; girls’ aPR = 2.6, 95 % CI 1.5–4.5), and fewer social skills (aPR = 1.9, 95 % CI 1.3–2.9) than those who exercised at least 20 min every day of the week. Overweight/obese children, especially girls, were more likely than children of normal weight to have parent-reported negative emotions, suggesting an association between weight status and mental health. Lower levels of physical activity were associated with negative mental health outcomes, supporting the benefits of physical activity for all children.


Mental health Obesity Overweight Physical activity Children National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) 



The authors would like to thank Deborah Rosenberg, Ph.D., and Kristin M. Rankin, Ph.D., for their scientific guidance on this analysis and manuscript. The authors would like to thank the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program, Applied Sciences Branch, Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Public Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for review of the manuscript and helpful comments. The authors would like to thank the Massachusetts Title V Director, Ron Benham, M. Div., M. Ed. for his leadership. No financial disclosures were reported by the authors of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily Lu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rashmi Dayalu
    • 1
  • Hafsatou Diop
    • 1
  • Elizabeth M. Harvey
    • 1
  • Susan E. Manning
    • 1
    • 2
  • Stella G. Uzogara
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Department of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Division of Reproductive HealthCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA

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