Childhood obesity linked to emotional issues

August 22, 2013
Childhood obesity linked to emotional issues
Boys suffering from obesity are at higher risk of developing relationship problems. Credit: monkeybusinessimages

Schoolchildren suffering from obesity are at higher risk of developing psychological problems than their slimmer counterparts, according to new research.

The Monash University-led collaborative study of over 2000 Taiwanese schoolchildren aged 6–13 years, examined whether (ED) such as inappropriate behaviour, , depression, or an inability to learn, was associated with obesity.

Using the Scale for Assessing Emotional Disturbance (SAED), researchers from Monash University, the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, the China Medical University, Taiwan and the National Defense Medical Centre, Taiwan, investigated whether ED was associated with obesity by gender. SAED is a rating scale designed to assist identifying students who may be experiencing emotional and/or at school.

Co-author, Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University's Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine and the Monash Asia Institute, said the of on physical health are well-recognised as are, increasingly, its associations with psychosocial and .

"Childhood obesity has been associated with psychological problems, but little is known about its association with ED in the educational setting, especially by gender," Professor Wahlqvist said.

"Knowledge of how emotional disturbance and obesity might be linked is currently limited, especially in Asia where is on the rise; and where societal and parental focus is often intense in regard to schooling; frequently with gender favouritism."

The research found boys (16.5 per cent) were significantly more likely to be obese than girls (11.7 per cent), however, while ED becomes more prevalent as children move up through the grades, remains fairly constant.

The research found the occurrence of relationship problems was higher among obese (23.5 per cent) than among normal weight (14.4 per cent) and overweight (14.8 per cent) children. Conversely, the prevalence of obesity was higher among children with emotional disorders such as inability to learn and unhappiness or depression (16.9 per cent), than without these issues (13.7 per cent).

"In boys we found they struggled with relationship problems and in girls it was inappropriate behaviour," Professor Wahlqvist said.

"However, obesity doesn't automatically mean young children will suffer from ED. Where obesity exists at the same time as psychological problems, prevalence of these problems increased as students progressed through the school grades."

The researchers said the findings suggest there are extensive and complex interactions between body composition and emotions during child development.

"The early identification of children at risk of developing these combinations of physical and mental health problems may enable interventions that can help to prevent progression to more serious physical and mental health problems in later life," Professor Wahlqvist said.

"The results highlight the need for further studies of child health in relation to and psychological problems."

The results of the research were recently published in Research in Developmental Disability.

Explore further: Four-fold rise in children treated for obesity-related conditions

More information: www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891422213002722

Related Stories

The paradox of BMI and life expectancy

October 10, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Although the medical cost to the community rises as more and more people become obese, there is little adverse association between being overweight and life expectancy, new research has confirmed.

Early behavioural problems linked to lower GCSE grades

August 22, 2013

As thousands of 16-year-olds find out their GCSE results, new research has found that three-year-olds who display hyperactivity, inattention or conduct problems are at risk of worse academic outcomes when GCSEs come around.

Recommended for you

Yo-yo dieting might cause extra weight gain

December 5, 2016

Repeated dieting may lead to weight gain because the brain interprets the diets as short famines and urges the person to store more fat for future shortages, new research by the universities of Exeter and Bristol suggests.

New target receptor discovered in the fight against obesity

November 25, 2016

The team of scientists from King's College London and Imperial College London tested a high-fat diet, containing a fermentable carbohydrate, and a control diet on mice and looked at the effect on food intake of those with ...

Does where you live affect what you weigh?

November 21, 2016

Adult obesity rates in the United States have reached epidemic proportions, with one in four people considered obese. Yet, obesity rates vary considerably across states and counties.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.