In the Western world obesity is reaching epidemic proportions, and now more children are overweight than ever before. Apart from the obvious health problems associated with carrying round extra weight like an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, it seems mental health might be at stake too.
More likely to suffer emotionally and socially
A recent study carried out by Australian researchers found that obese 8 and 9 year olds were more likely to suffer emotionally and socially than other children who were not overweight reports Health Day News.
The children who had a high BMI (body mass index) before the age of 5 had up to a 20 percent greater risk of suffering socially by the time they reached the age of 9.
Which comes first?
One question that has often been asked is whether social problems lead to weight gain or whether it’s the other way round.
“There have been a number of studies over the past 5 to 10 years looking at whether or not obesity in young children and adolescents is related to emotional, behavioral and mental health problems,” noted Dr. Julie Lumeng, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics and communicable diseases at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about which direction that relationship goes in — does obesity cause children to be unhappy, or is it that unhappy children are more likely to become obese? Many people think it goes in both ways.”
According to the researchers being overweight may have contributed to their unhappiness perhaps as a result of being teased or socially ostracized.
However, the researchers also note that the effect of obesity may be different in countries where obesity levels are higher. In the Australian sample of 3,363 children only 4 or 5 percent were obese whereas in the United States the number of obese children is around 17 percent.
Fast foods and video games don’t help
These days with fast foods and video games children are not getting the kind of nutrition children had in the past and are also spending a lot more time slumped in front of a screen indoors instead of running around outside.
There is little doubt that children who are overweight are more likely to face problems with self esteem and to suffer health problems than children who are not. It has to be said that unless parents take more responsibility for their children’s weight earlier in life through improved nutrition and adequate exercise, the extra pressure on a child from carrying around extra pounds is bound to take its toll at some point either physically or mentally or both.