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Child Obes. 2017 Feb;13(1):25-35. doi: 10.1089/chi.2016.0079. Epub 2016 Oct 5.

The Effect of Age on the Prevalence of Obesity among US Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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1 Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine , Boston, MA.
2 Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, E.K. Shriver Center , UMass Medical School, Charlestown, MA.
3 Department of Biobehavioral Health Sciences, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania , Philadelphia, PA.
4 The Research Center for Health Care Decision-Making, Inc. , Wyndmoor, PA.
5 HealthPartners Institute , Bloomington, MN.
6 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, Duke University School of Medicine , Durham, NC.
7 Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts Boston , Boston, MA.
8 Department of Health Sciences, Boston University , Boston, MA.



We sought to assess the association between age and the prevalence of obesity among children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children's Health.


Analyses were restricted to 43,777 children, ages 10-17, with valid measures of parent-reported weight, height, and ASD status. Exploratory analyses describe the impact of sex, race/ethnicity, and household income on the relationship between age and obesity in ASD.


Although the overall prevalence of obesity among children with ASD was significantly (p < 0.001) higher than among children without ASD (23.1% vs. 14.1%, 95% confidence interval for difference 3.6 to 14.4), child age significantly (p = 0.035) modified this difference. In a multivariable logistic regression analysis, adjusted for sex, race/ethnicity, and household income, the odds of obesity among children with ASD compared with children without ASD increased monotonically from ages 10 to 17 years. This pattern arose due to a consistently high prevalence of obesity among children with ASD and a decline in prevalence with advancing age among children without ASD. These findings were replicated using a propensity score analysis. Exploratory analyses suggested that the age-related change in obesity disparity between children with and without ASD may be further modified by sex, race/ethnicity, and household income.


The patterns of prevalence observed with increasing age among children with and without ASD were unexpected. A better understanding of the etiological and maintenance factors for obesity in youth with ASD is needed to develop interventions tailored to the specific needs of these children.


disability; epidemiology; health disparities; obesity; racial/ethnic disparities

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