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Excess Weight in Primary School Girls Linked to GP Visits for Musculoskeletal Issues

Primary school girls between the ages of 4 and 11 with a body mass index (BMI) considered overweight or obese are more likely to see a family doctor (GP) at least once about musculoskeletal problems than their healthy weight peers, suggests research, focused on one area of London and published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

There is some evidence to suggest that obesity increases the likelihood of back pain, chronic pain, and a hip condition (SCFE) more common in teens, caused by the additional stress placed on the body’s joints by excess weight. However, the association isn’t clear, largely because of the quality and paucity of previously published studies, suggest the researchers.

To strengthen the evidence base, they set out to discover if musculoskeletal symptoms are more common among young children with a BMI considered obese/overweight than they are among their peers with a healthy weight.

They included primary schoolchildren from 4 ethnically diverse north east London local authorities from the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) for the academic years 2013-14 to 2018-19. The results were linked to general practice health records. The study sample included 63,418 (51% boys) 4-5 year-olds (reception year) and 55,364 (51% boys) 10 to 11 year-olds (year 6). Most of the children lived in areas of high deprivation.

Just under 9% of reception year boys and just over 7% of reception year girls were living with obesity compared with just under 20% of year 6 boys and 14.4% of year 6 girls.

On average, the first musculoskeletal consultation occurred nearly 3 years after the reception year NCMP measurement and just over 2 years after the year 6 measurement. When analysed by gender, reception girls with obesity were more likely to see their doctor about a musculoskeletal problem than their healthy weight peers, but there was no difference among the boys.


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