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Obesity affects children’s physical and psychological well-being. In this study we investigated the associations of obesity with physical activity, socioeconomic factors, and lifestyle among Saudi children and adolescents. A stratified sample of 729 school children and 794 adolescent students was recruited. Waist circumference and body mass index were used to categorize the participants as obese and non-obese, and a structured mixed questionnaire was used to collect socioeconomic, physical activity, and lifestyle data. The results revealed that obese adolescent males (33.5%) were significantly more common than obese adolescent females (13.6%, P < 0.001). Body mass index-based and waist circumference-based obesity was significantly more common in private schools compared to public schools among school children and adolescents (P = 0.013 and P = 0.002, respectively). Student obesity was associated with higher parental education, especially among the school children (P = 0.006). Among adolescents, obesity was strongly associated with family income (P = 0.002) and time spent watching television (P = 0.004). Non-obese children and adolescents were considered subjectively more active than their obese counterparts (P < 0.001 and P = 0.011, respectively). In conclusion, obesity was common among school children and adolescents, and was associated with private schooling, adolescent male sex, parental education, and family income. Physical inactivity and time spent watching television were important risk factors for obesity among Saudi school children and adolescents.
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