How Physical Activity Is Associated With Severe School Absenteeism

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Presentation given at APHA 140th Annual meeting and Expo.

Introduction: Physical activity is positively associated with improved school performance. School absenteeism is negatively associated with academic performance. Few studies have assessed the effects of physical activity on school absenteeism. The purpose of this study was to explore the independent relationship of physical activity on school absenteeism. Methods: Data assessed from NHANES 2005-2008 surveys included proxy interviews, usually mothers, of 1048 children aged 6-11 years. Adolescents (N=1117) aged 12-18 years provided self-reports. Students absent ≥ 10 percent of school days over the course of a school year met the defined criteria for severe school absenteeism (SSA). Normal attendance, moderate and serve absences were used as the three-level categorical dependent variable. Physical activity was assessed with the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire and converted to METs. Combined and independent associations were assessed using a polytomous logistic regression model with generalized logit. Results: Inactive (≤ 3 days per week) children ages 6-11 years were at an increased odds [OR=12.4 (1.43 – 108)] of SSA compared to children engaging in medium amounts (4-6 times per week) of physical activity. Highly active children (≥ 7 times per week) were also at an increased odds [14.8 (2.82 – 77.7)] for SSA. Discussion: The implications of physical inactivity appear to go beyond obesity and academic performance. The increased odds of SSA with high activity levels requires careful consideration to help educators properly understand and target underlying causes which may include overcommitted children, stress, and parent pressure. Why similar results were not observed in adolescents needs further evaluation.


APHA 140th Annual meeting and Expo


Chicago, IL