Childhood Obesity and Depression

Children who suffer from chronic obesity commonly suffer from depression and related self-esteem problems. A recent study has discovered that children and adolescents who struggle with being overweight and obese tend to have higher rates of depression than those who are not obese. The study focused on around 1,000 children over eight years, with the aim of describing the psychological effects of obesity. What the researchers found was that childhood obesity did have severe psychological consequences and could link to various psychiatric disorders.

While the media often carries stories about the effects of overweight and obesity on girls, one of the surprising conclusions of the study was that it is typically overweight boys who suffer from obesity-related depressions. Both obese boys and girls tend to be candidates for what is known as “oppositional defiant disorder.” This psychological problem characterized by hostile, angry behavior towards authority.

One thing that the study was unable to establish is the causality of the problem. In other words, what comes first – the obesity or depression and related psychological problems?

One hypothesis is that both obesity and depression stem from similar chemistry of the brain. Whatever the answer is, one thing is for sure: obesity affects different people in different ways. This is why treatment options must be tailored to each's experience.

Another recent study also took place throughout eight years, during which nearly 1,000 children between the ages of nine and sixteen studied. Each child's weight, height, psychiatric status, and vulnerability towards psychological problems monitored during this period. About 73% of the children fell into the nonobese category; 15% of them were chronically obese; 5% were overweight only as children; 7% were obese only as young adults. (As there is no standard measurement of obesity in children, those who classified as obese were significantly overweight.)

What the study found was that childhood obesity is a much larger problem in the United States than anyone had previously thought. It occurs at three to four times the rate announced in the year 2000 by the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study also concluded that chronic obese children were far more likely to have psychiatric problems related to depression and psychological. While the first is more common in boys, the latter occurs in both sexes. Children who are not adults are almost not at risk of this kind of psychological problem.

Parents should keep in mind that weight loss is not a healthy or proper method for young children to employ, as their bodies – and minds – are still developing. Actively encouraging dieting can often fuel the fire of obesity-related depression. Unless a doctor assigns your child to put on a diet for specific medical reasons, dieting should not be encouraged in young children, as it could also deprive them of the nutrients and vitality they need to develop.