The Dire Impact of Childhood Obesity on Mental Health

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You probably know obesity is bad for a child’s health.

But did you know obesity takes a toll on children’s minds, too?

An overweight or obese child has three times the risk for depression in adulthood as a normal-weight child. Risk rises four times for children who are overweight or obese in both childhood and adulthood, according to a new study, CBS News reports.

Sadly, Latinos suffer high rates of both obesity and mental health conditions.

That is why knowing the facts—and having the resources available can alter the effects of obesity on mental health—can lead child to a healthy lifestyle.

The Facts on Obesity

Childhood obesity is defined as a diagnosis for any child (same sex and age) “with a Body Mass Index at or above the 95th percentile”, according to the Center of Disease and Control (CDC). Overweight is a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens.

Source: CDC/NCHS, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2011-2014

You can calculate your BMI or your child’s BMI with a Body Mass Index Calculator.

Latino kids have a higher rate of obesity (21.9%) than non-Latinos, according to the CDC.

The reasons for Latino childhood obesity are complex, ranging from limited access to healthy food, more access to sugary drinks, health barriers in schools, less access to safe places to be physically active, and developmental issues.

Obesity’s Mental Health Effects

Childhood obesity has big health effects. It can increase the risk of asthma, diabetes, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and high cholesterol.

Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, too. Adult obesity is linked to increased risk of serious health conditions including; Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Obesity’s mental health impact is critical, too.

Childhood obesity can lead to sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Obesity can make it harder for kids to participate in activities, and even chores may become dreadful.

Kids also become a target for bullying. Many children will experience being teased or bullied, because of their excessive weight. Trying to reach that ideal body weight bears self-esteem on an individual, and self-esteem leads to depression.

Latino kids already face a lot of bullying due to discrimination, according to Salud America! Mental Health Research. 

With the rise in adolescent obesity and the increased use of social media influence on body image, its important to understand the associations between obesity and depression.

A Healthy Lifestyle

So what can we do?

The authors of the new study on childhood obesity and depression told CBS News that parents help their children achieve a healthier weight through eating healthy and being physically active. But don’t focus too much on size.

James Zervios of Obesity Action Coalition told CBS News that it takes a whole-family approach to tackle obesity.

“I also think it’s important to talk with your child and see if they’re being bullied or if they’re being fat-shamed at school,” Zervios said. “That can obviously impact the child’s well-being and mental health.”

Check out these other healthy lifestyles resources:

And don’t forget to tell us your big idea for healthy change in your child’s school!

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Mental Health

By The Numbers By The Numbers

22

PERCENT

of Latino youth have depressive symptoms (a rate higher than most other groups).

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