The study, published online, will appear in the January/February print issue of the journal Academic Pediatrics.
Compared to normal-weight children, obese kids were more than twice as likely to have health considered poor, fair or good, versus very good or excellent, Halfon said.
The obese children were also more likely to have activity restrictions, to repeat grades, to miss school, to internalize problems, to have behavioral conditions such as ADHD or conduct disorder, or learning disabilities. Problems with muscles, bones and joints were also more common, as were asthma, allergies, headache and ear infections.
Overall, the obese children were almost twice as likely to have three or more mental health, developmental or physical health problems as normal-weight youngsters.
For overweight kids, the effect was less pronounced, Halfon found. They were 1.3 times as likely as normal-weight kids to report three or more health conditions.
Although the study establishes a link between obesity and other health problems, the research doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship. And it's not clear which way the association goes.
"Is the obesity causing all these problems?" Halfon said. "It could go either way, both ways or be related to other factors."
For instance, toxic stress early in life could drive some of the health conditions, he noted.
Halfon said his large, national study echoes some evidence found in smaller studies.
So far, experts have focused on long-term problems related to obesity in childhood, Halfon said. Now, they should consider more immediate effects, he noted.
Another expert agreed.
The new study ''points out the need to care for the whole child and not to focus [only] on the physical health of these children," said Dr. Rachel Gross, attending pediatrician at the Children's Hospital at Mo
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