Comorbidity of Childhood Obesity and Psychological Issues

Childhood obesity is becoming an epidemic. Numerous factors have contributed to this dilemma. Financial limitations have led to elimination of many extracurricular activities in school systems, including sports, physical education, and even recess. For many students, school-based activities are the only resource they have for regular, structured exercise. Technology has overtaken our youth, causing television, computers, and hand-held devices to consume much of the time children could otherwise spend in physical endeavors. Additionally, single parent households and dual income households spend more time at work and less time at home. This contributes to increased consumption of fast food and prepared meals rather than healthy, nutritious foods. Taken together, these conditions shed some light on why our youth is overweight.

It has also been well established that obesity leads to significant physical and psychological problems. However, the research in this area, while abundant, is lacking in some respects. For instance, it is unclear whether or not psychological problems lead to obesity or if obesity increases the risk of mental health issues in children. In an effort to determine how thorough the existing research on childhood obesity is, Elizabeth R. Pulgaron of the Department of Pediatrics and the Division of clinical Psychology at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami recently conducted a review of 79 existing studies on the relationship between childhood obesity and psychological and physical illnesses.

Pulgaron found that childhood obesity was primarily associated with asthma and dental issues in children. With respect to mental health, the results revealed that internalizing problems, including depression and anxiety, were most prevalent among the obese children. Upon further exploration, self-esteem and family support seemed to contribute as well. But other factors, including ADHD and sleep disturbances, emerged as related to obesity, but the direct relationship is still unclear. Also, Pulgaron found several studies that demonstrated obesity onset prior to mental health issues, while others demonstrated psychological onset first. Pulgaron believes that childhood obesity is a critical health issue facing our youth and that efforts aimed at identifying risks and ramifications of obesity need to be sustained. “The current literature supports the importance of continued work in this area to better understand the complexities of the intertwined comorbidities associated with childhood obesity,” Pulgaron said.

Pulgarón, Elizabeth R. (2013). Childhood obesity: A review of increased risk for physical and psychological comorbidities. Clinical therapeutics 35.1 (2013): A18-32. ProQuest. Web.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • valarie


    April 4th, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    We are doing our kids such a disservice to allow them to become overweight and adding to the statistics of the picture of unhealthiness of the United States.

    I have always said that if you are an adult and you choose to be overweight, and that is a choice that you make no matter whether you think so or not, then that’s one thing. But to allow your children to go and develop your own unhealthy lifestyles too, then that is something that should be stopped.

    You are the parent- you have a great deal of control over what your kids eat and how much activity they get. I want to do better and have more for my children than what I have. Setting them up for a lifetime of mental and physical ailments due to being overweight is not the way to achieve that.

  • Michal


    April 4th, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Actually I thought that the recent statistics are showing that our children are actually consuming less fatty foods and less sugars. We were all told that these things were the root of our problem.

    I do not believe that is the case and actually believe that we should look to our education system and encourage kids in school to become active. If we do not do this we are missing a fundamental pillar of good health. PE is just as important as a balanced meal. An active child will stay active for their entire lives. A sendentary child will also remain at the same state.

  • Dale


    April 4th, 2013 at 1:40 PM

    Really surprised there is no mention of fast food and other u healthy diet practices here.Each of the things listed here – obesity, physical health problems and mental health issues – all have food as a common factor. The amount of junk food we are eating – and especially the younger lot – is on the rise. And so is childhood obesity. It would be foolhardy to ignore this major aspect with regard to the subject under consideration.

  • StressMom


    April 5th, 2013 at 4:04 AM

    These are children whom I feel so bad for, who have very little chance of fitting in and having the fun that should come with shildhood because they have been allowed to make poor food decisions and have become obese.

    For most of them, once you are fat, the weight thing is something that will be a challenge for them all of their lives, especially if there is a history of it with mom and dad too. I think that there are far too few parents who realize the difficulties of being overweight and how they are harming their children by not enforcing some nutritional and exercise gorund rules in the home.

  • Eliza


    April 6th, 2013 at 5:25 PM

    Some children are born sedentary (sedentary in utero) and overweight; unable to balance; unable to play sports because of slow reflexes and sedentariness; cannot ride a bicycle; refuses to do any form of physical exercise; this is the ultimate challenge – to have the overweight oppositional child. If anyone has any magical formulas…for some of us, it is not only what you give the child to eat. It is trying exhaustively to get your child to move. One reaches the apathetic moment after years of trying. It is easy for all the givers of advice. It is difficult to help the truly obstinate, slow moving obese child. It is way beyond proper diet, daily exercise and being sn excellent role model for these things -which are essential for all but not the total answer for certain unfortunate subgroups of our precious children.

  • ken


    April 6th, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    obese children r more prone to be bullied too.. n that can cause psychological problems.. they often have fewer or no friends and that can be a severe handicap psychologically. we need to think about and do more to eradicate this problem of childhood obesity.

  • Steve in Atlanta

    Steve in Atlanta

    April 17th, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    It certainly seems like there is more being done in order to curb the increasing number of children who are becoming obese. In fact, they are now running a bunch of ads for that “More You Know” awareness campaign. However, I wonder if we are making the right moves when it comes to addressing childhood obesity. For instance, did you know that there is now an obesity predictor that has been made available to parents? It is basically a calculator which will assess a child’s risk of being obese later in life based on a number of genetic and environmental factors specific to that child. If you haven’t yet heard about this then I suggest checking out this article:

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