Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, lead author and PhD candidate, Anagha Killedar, presents strong evidence on how demographic factors affect the relationship between weight status and health-related quality of life throughout childhood and adolescence. The study team also developed a rigorous model using age, sex and BMI specific utilities in adolescence which will be useful to health economists when evaluating the cost effectiveness of early childhood obesity interventions.
Children who are overweight or obese experienced reduced health related quality of life (HRQoL) and the association is strengthened with increasing age. This paper was published by International Journal of Obesity and demonstrated that while there was minimal association at early ages, higher weight status was associated with lower HRQoL as children aged, specifically from age 9 onwards where the difference becomes clinically significant (see figure). The association between weight and HRQoL did not change by socioeconomic status.
Interventions targeting children under 9 years may not have an immediate impact on HRQoL but may prevent severe impairments in HRQoL at later ages, highlighting the importance of early prevention of childhood obesity.
In a second paper published in PharmacoEconomics, the team showed that a common measure of HRQoL that can be used for economic evaluation of obesity interventions are gender specific. In girls, the relationship between weight status and HRQoL was stronger than in boys, and became stronger with age, while in boys the relationship remained consistent.
The findings from both these projects has brought us a step closer to developing an economic model of childhood obesity that captures all the relevant long-term consequences of overweight and obesity and therefore, the potential benefits from early prevention.