The association of fitness and school absenteeism across gender and poverty: a prospective multilevel analysis in New York City middle schools.
PURPOSE: One-fifth to one-third of students in high poverty, urban school districts do not attend school regularly (missing ≥6 days/year). Fitness is shown to be associated with absenteeism, although this relationship may differ across poverty and gender subgroups. METHODS: Six cohorts of New York City public school students were followed up from grades 5 to 8 during 2006/2007-2012/2013 (n = 349,381). Stratified three-level longitudinal generalized linear mixed models were used to test the association between changes in fitness and 1-year lagged child-specific days absent across gender and poverty. RESULTS: In girls attending schools in high/very high poverty areas, greater improvements in fitness the prior year were associated with greater reductions in absenteeism (P = .034). Relative to the reference group (>20% decrease in fitness composite percentile scores from the prior year), girls with a large increase in fitness (>20%) demonstrated 10.3% fewer days absent (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.834, 0.964), followed by those who had a 10%-20% increase in fitness (9.2%; IRR 95% CI: 0.835, 0.987), no change (5.4%; IRR 95% CI: 0.887, 1.007), and a 10%-20% decrease in fitness (3.8%; IRR 95% CI: 0.885, 1.045). In girls attending schools in low/mid poverty areas, fitness and absenteeism also had an inverse relationship, but no clear trend emerged. In boys, fitness and absenteeism had an inverse relationship but was not significant in either poverty group. CONCLUSIONS: Fitness improvements may be more important to reducing absenteeism in high/very high poverty girls compared with low/mid poverty girls and both high/very high and low/mid poverty boys. Expanding school-based physical activity programs for youth particularly in high poverty neighborhoods may increase student attendance.
D'Agostino, EM; Day, SE; Konty, KJ; Larkin, M; Saha, S; Wyka, K
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