Trajectories and Transitions in Childhood and Adolescent Obesity

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© The Author(s) 2015 CC BY-NC
The last few decades have seen a dramatic rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in most high-income countries. This rise has been seen across all ages, even in very young children. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term health consequences and is now recognised as one of the most important public health concerns of our time. In this chapter, we take a life course perspective to review the evidence on trajectories and transitions in childhood and adolescent obesity. Understanding the life course aetiology of obesity is essential to inform prevention strategies – for example, knowing how the incidence of obesity changes across childhood and adolescence can be informative about the potential impact of intervening in different age groups. In this chapter, we review the evidence on the ages at which children tend to become overweight or obese, and the degree to which obesity persists once established. We then go on to discuss the importance of applying a life course perspective to the study of childhood and adolescent obesity, including the possibility that distinct adiposity trajectories have different long-term health consequences and the fact that longitudinal studies enable a finer analysis of the determinants of obesity than is possible from cross-sectional studies, improving aetiological insight. In the concluding part of this chapter, we reflect on the importance of a life course perspective in studies of childhood and adolescent obesity, and discuss future directions for life course studies in this area.
Life Course Research and Social Policies, 2015, 4 pp. 19 - 37