• Led by Imperial College Business School, in partnership with the University of Bristol and the World Obesity Federation.
  • This project aims to establish the causal pathways that link childhood obesity to human capital development and social outcomes.
  • The work continues to focus on educational attainment, labour market outcomes and indicators of social participation in three UK cohorts.
  • This research project began in April 2018.

This project led by Imperial College Business School has been designed to establish evidence of the causal impacts of childhood obesity on education, labour market and social outcomes; and shed light on the direction of causality between obesity and social outcomes, and on the role of known confounders, such as children’s socio-economic background.

Childhood obesity is a major risk factor to long-term health outcomes in the UK and across the world. However, there are challenges in trying to tackle the problem. The health impacts of childhood obesity take a long time to materialise, and available interventions often only demonstrate a small effect. This means a case for government action would be stronger if it did not rely purely on the health benefits of interventions.

Childhood obesity is a social phenomenon and wider societal action is needed to prevent it and to minimise its long-term impacts. Engaging and motivating policy makers and other relevant stakeholders to act will require a fuller understanding of the social and economic benefits of curbing the spread of obesity in children.

This project continues to examine the short- and long-term consequences of childhood obesity what the causal effect is on educational attainment, employment participation, income level and social participation.

Data from multiple birth cohort studies is being used, including the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), the British Cohort Study of 1970, and the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS).

The study leverages biomarkers in the ALSPAC cohort and genetic information in all three cohorts to analyse causal pathways.

The findings of the project will strengthen the case for action to tackle the current childhood obesity epidemic by providing an estimate of the broader welfare effects of interventions.

It aims to generate more detailed knowledge of the pathways and mechanisms through which the social and economic impacts of childhood obesity are generated, which will give policymakers the means to intervene more effectively in mitigating those impacts. 

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Contact information

For more information about this project, please contact Franco Sassi, Professor of International Health Policy and Economics, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Innovation, Imperial College London.

Learn more

Understanding the effect of childhood obesity and overweight on educational outcomes: an interdisciplinary secondary analysis of two UK cohorts

The impact of childhood obesity on human capital in high-income countries: A systematic review

Evaluating the cost of childhood obesity to social and economic welfare

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