In 2011, Britain’s National Obesity Observatory announced that the negative impact of obesity on children’s mental well-being increases with age. While the friendships of younger children may barely be affected, in the teen years “peer relationships can become more problematic, leading to obese adolescents being more at risk of marginalization and victimization.”
Obese teens also tend to be depressed, and…
[…] there is strong evidence to suggest that by adolescence, there is increased risk of low self-regard and impaired quality of life in obese individuals, particularly in the perception of physical appearance, athletic competence and social functioning.
Researchers found that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are hit harder by the negative emotional effects of obesity, such as depression. At the same time, obesity probably also increases the risk of depression, although not to such a degree, among the economically and socially privileged.
But those are adults. The impact on children and adolescents is less clear, because of inconsistent data. This much is known:
Being overweight as a child or adolescent has been found to have an adverse effect on a young person’s self esteem, self image, and self concept, with physical appearance and athletic/physical competence being most affected…
However, literature reviews have concluded that in spite of adverse social and interpersonal consequences, obese children may only have moderate levels of body dissatisfaction and few are depressed or have low self esteem. Evidence also suggests that obese children are not pre-destined for depression and do not see themselves without merit.
The 28-page report restates the idea that weight management programs have the potential to help obese youth even if there is no weight loss in the short term, and confirms that obesity and impaired mental/emotional health can be mutually reciprocal in perpetuating each other.
In 2014, another meta-study appeared, based on data derived from “the ERIC, FRANCIS, MEDLINE, PsycARTICLES, PsycINFO, and Academic Search Premier databases” and limited to “articles reporting cross-sectional QOL studies in obese children and adolescents published in English before January 2013.” They looked not only at weight status but such varied factors as parental education level, self-image, bullying, bodily pain, quality of food intake, physical activity, and time spent with TV and computer screens.
According to the study:
Among the 34 articles retained for the analysis, only three did not report lower QOL among obese youth.
Only three out of 34 did not find some manifestation of a lower quality of life for overweight/ obese kids. Those numbers seem significant. But a critic could ask, “Is there confirmation bias? After all, who decided which studies to include?” Because of the actions of some corporations and some shady scientists, we have all learned to be more cautious, and the innocent get the side-eye along with the guilty.
A recent British study found that overweight/obese 5- and 6-year-olds in the United Kingdom are pretty much as happy as their normal-weight schoolmates.
Last year, Egypt’s National Nutrition Institute, employing the PedsQL (Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory version 4.0), examined the physical, emotional, social, and scholarly functioning of 111 children age 6 to 12, and found that:
There was a significant negative correlation relationship between total quality of life scores and BMI, waist circumference and weight.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Obesity and mental health – National Obesity Observatory,” Khub.net, March 2011
Source: “Quality of life in overweight and obese children and adolescents: a literature review,” NIH.gov, May 2014
Source: “Is utility-based quality of life associated with overweight in children?,” 7thspace.com, 12/16/15
Source: “The health-related quality of life in normal and obese children,” ScienceDirect.com, June 2016
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