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School of Public Health


Health Research Center



Comparative data of parental separation and childhood overweight has not been available before across the Nordic countries. The aim of this study was to examine the within-country prevalence and association between parental cohabitation and overweight in Nordic children.


A cross-sectional survey of 2-17-year-old children was conducted in 2011, titled: “NordChild”. A random sample of 3,200 parents in each of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden were invited to participate in the study with parents of 6,609 children accepting to give answers about their children’s health and welfare including information on height and weight of each child and parental cohabitation (response rate 41.5%). The group differences in prevalence and adjusted odds ratio (OR) for overweight, with corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CI) were performed in children whose parents lived separately. Additionally, a missing data analysis was performed to determine whether the adjusted estimates might result from confounding or selection bias.


A significant difference was observed in Iceland between children whose parents live separately compared to those who live with both parents (difference: 9.4%, 95% CI: 2.8; 15.9) but no such difference was observed in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. No significant odds of overweight were observed in children whose parents lived separately compared to children in normal weight at the time of study; Denmark: OR 1.03 (95% CI: 0.42; 2.53), Finland: OR 1.27 (95% CI: 0.74; 2.20), Iceland: OR 1.50 (95% CI: 0.79; 2.84), Norway: OR 1.46 (95% CI: 0.81; 2.62), and Sweden: 1.07 (95% CI: 0.61; 1.86). The missing data analysis indicated that the findings in Norway, Finland and Iceland were partly observed due to selection effects, whereas the adjustment in Denmark was due to confounding. The crude OR for overweight was higher in the 2-9-year-old group than in the 10-17-year-old group whose parents lived separately in Iceland, Norway and Sweden.


No association between parental cohabitation and overweight in Nordic children was found. Our finding of greater prevalence of overweight in Icelandic children whose parents live separately may be an indication that the welfare system in Iceland is separating from the other Nordic countries.

Source Citation

Hohwü, L., Gissler, M., Sjöberg, A. et al. Prevalence of overweight in 2 to 17 year-old children and adolescents whose parents live separately: a Nordic cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health 14, 1216 (2014).


This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



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