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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