Is informal child care associated with childhood obesity? Evidence from Hong Kong's "children of 1997" birth cohort

Shi Lin Lin, Gabriel M. Leung, Lai Ling Hui, Tai Hing Lam, C. Mary Schooling

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In Western populations, informal child care is associated with childhood obesity. However, informal child care and obesity share social patterning making evidence from other settings valuable. Methods: We used multivariable linear and logistic regression models to estimate the association of child care at 6 months and at 3, 5 and 11 years with body mass index (BMI) z-score and overweight (including obesity) at 11 years in a Hong Kong Chinese birth cohort. We assessed whether associations varied with sex or socio-economic position (SEP). We used multiple imputation for missing exposures and confounders. Results: Of the original 8327 cohort members, 7933 are alive, participating and living in Hong Kong. At ~11 years, 6796 had their BMI clinically assessed. Higher SEP was associated with informal care. After imputation, informal care at each of 3, 5 or 11 years was separately associated with higher BMI z-score [3 years 0.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.03-0.18, 5 years 0.12, 95% CI 0.04-0.21, 11 years 0.17, 95% CI 0.04-0.31] and with the presence of overweight [odds ratio (OR) 3 years 1.19, 95% CI 1.03-1.37, 5 years OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.03-1.40, 11 years OR 1.21, 95% CI 1.02-1.45], adjusted for sex, SEP and birth weight z-score. Current informal care had the strongest association. However, informal child care at 5 years also contributed. There was no evidence of differences by sex or SEP. Conclusions: In a developed, non-Western setting, informal child care was associated with childhood obesity. Modifiable attributes of informal child care warrant investigation for obesity prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdyr086
Pages (from-to)1238-1246
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • BMI
  • Child care
  • Children
  • Cohort study
  • Informal care
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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