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

UMMS Affiliation

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center; Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Disability Studies | Epidemiology | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Nervous System Diseases | Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases | Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms | Pediatrics | Psychiatry and Psychology | Race and Ethnicity


BACKGROUND: 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.

METHODS: 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.

RESULTS: 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.

CONCLUSIONS: 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

DOI of Published Version



Must A, Eliasziw M, Phillips SM, Curtin C, Kral TV, Segal M, Sherwood NE, Sikich L, Stanish HI, Bandini LG. The Effect of Age on the Prevalence of Obesity among US Youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Child Obes. 2017 Feb;13(1):25-35. doi: 10.1089/chi.2016.0079. Epub 2016 Oct 5. PMID: 27704874; PMCID: PMC5278796. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Childhood obesity (Print)

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID