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Prevalence and socioeconomic correlates of overweight and obesity among Pakistani primary school children

Muhammad Umair Mushtaq12*, Sibgha Gull3, Hussain Muhammad Abdullah1, Ubeera Shahid1, Mushtaq Ahmad Shad2 and Javed Akram1

Author Affiliations

1 Ubeera Memorial Research Society, Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore, 54000 Punjab, Pakistan

2 District Health Office Nankana Sahib, Punjab Department of Health, Nankana Sahib, 39100 Punjab, Pakistan

3 King Edward Medical University, Lahore, 54000 Punjab, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:724  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-724

Published: 25 September 2011



Childhood obesity is becoming an equally challenging, yet under-recognized, problem in developing countries including Pakistan. Children and adolescents are worst affected with an estimated 10% of the world's school-going children being overweight and one quarter of these being obese. The study aimed to assess prevalence and socioeconomic correlates of overweight and obesity, and trend in prevalence statistics, among Pakistani primary school children.


A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted with a representative multistage cluster sample of 1860 children aged 5-12 years in Lahore, Pakistan. Overweight (> + 1SD) and obesity (> + 2SD) were defined using the World Health Organization child growth reference 2007. Chi-square test was used as the test of trend. Linear regression was used to examine the predictive power of independent variables in relation to BMI. Logistic regression was used to quantify the independent predictors for overweight and adjusted odds ratios (aOR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) were obtained. All regression analyses were controlled for age and gender and statistical significance was considered at P < 0.05.


Seventeen percent (95% CI 15.4-18.8) children were overweight and 7.5% (95% CI 6.5-8.7) were obese. Higher prevalence of obesity was observed among boys than girls (P = 0.028), however, there was no gender disparity in overweight prevalence. Prevalence of overweight showed a significantly increasing trend with grade (P < 0.001). Children living in the urban area with high socioeconomic status (SES) were significantly at risk for being overweight and obese (both P < 0.001) as compared to children living in the urban area with lower SES and rural children. Being in higher grade (aOR 2.39, 95% CI 1.17-4.90) and living in the urban area with higher SES (aOR 18.10, 95% CI 10.24-32.00) independently predicted the risk of being overweight.


Alarmingly rapid rise in overweight and obesity among Pakistani primary school children was observed, especially among the affluent urban population. The findings support the urgent need for National preventive strategy for childhood obesity and targeted interventions tailored to local circumstances with meaningful involvement of communities.