Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Is central obesity associated with poorer health and health-related quality of life in primary school children? Cross-sectional results from the Baden-Württemberg Study

Dorothea Kesztyüs1*, Tamara Wirt1, Susanne Kobel1, Anja Schreiber1, Sarah Kettner1, Jens Dreyhaupt2, Reinhold Kilian3, Jürgen M Steinacker1 and The “Komm mit in das gesunde Boot - Grundschule” - Research Group1

Author affiliations

1 Division of Sports and Rehabilitation, Department of Internal Medicine II, Ulm University Medical Center, Frauensteige 6, 89075 Ulm, Germany

2 Institute of Epidemiology and Medical Biometry, Ulm University, Ulm, Germany

3 Department of Psychiatry II, Ulm University, Günzburg, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:260  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-260

Published: 22 March 2013



Childhood obesity and its consequences are a growing threat to national economies and health services. The aim of this study was to determine associations between waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) as a measure of central obesity, and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and absenteeism of primary school children in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.


Cross-sectional data from 1888 first and second grade children (7.1±0.6 years) participating in the baseline measurements of the Baden-Württemberg Study were analyzed. Parents completed questionnaires including a rating of their children’s HRQoL using KINDLR and EQ5D-Y VAS. Days of absence because of illness, and number of visits to a physician during the last year of school/kindergarten were asked, as well as the number of days parents took off work to care for their sick child. Anthropometric measurements were taken by trained staff. The Mann-Whitney-U test was used for statistical analysis of differences between WHtR groups. Logistic regression models were used to identify factors associated with sick days.


A total of 158 (8.4%) children were centrally obese (WHtR ≥0.5). These children had significantly more sick days (9.05 vs. 6.84, p < 0.001) and visits to a physician (3.58 vs. 2.91, p < 0.05), but not days of parental absence than other children. According to regression analysis, sick days were also associated with age, migration status, physical activity pattern, maternal health awareness and family education level. Parent-rated HRQoL was significantly lower in centrally obese children for the EQ5D-Y VAS (88.1 vs. 91.6, p < 0.001), and the KINDLR subscales ’school’ (79.9 vs. 82.5, p < 0.05) and ’friends’ (75.4 vs. 78.3, p < 0.05), but not for the total score.


Cross-sectional results show higher rates of absence, more visits to a physician and lower HRQoL in children with central obesity. Each missed day at school implies a hazard to academic achievement and each additional visit to a physician is related to higher health care costs. Thus, the negative impact of central obesity is already measurable in primary school children, which emphasizes the urgent need for early delivery of health promotion and targeted prevention.