Objectives. To determine whether a high BMI in childhood or early adulthood has a long-term influence on the likelihood of knee pain.
Methods. A birth cohort study of persons born during first week of 1958 in Great Britain. Participants were followed up throughout childhood and adulthood, most recently at 45 years, when information was collected on knee pain. Information on BMI was collected at follow-up intervals throughout childhood and adulthood.
Results. A total of 8579 individuals participated and the prevalence of being overweight and obesity increased throughout life from 0.2% at the age of 7 years to 65.5% at the age of 45 years. A total of 1636 individuals reported knee pain at the age of 45 years, giving a prevalence of 19.1% (95% CI 18.2, 19.9%). BMI was associated with knee pain: persons with a BMI of >30 kg/m2 at 23, 33 or 45 years experienced approximately a doubling in the risk of knee pain at 45 years. There was a significant association with knee pain at the age of 45 years with high BMI from as early as age 11 years, but the association was stronger at the age of 16 years [relative risk (RR)BMI 20–25vs<20 = 1.2 (95% CI 1.1, 1.3); RR25–30 = 1.3 (95% CI 1.1, 1.6); RR>30 = 1.6 (95% CI 1.05, 2.4)].
Conclusion. This study has demonstrated the long-term effects of childhood and early adult obesity and the importance of early intervention programmes to try to reduce weight and maintain weight loss.