Childhood obesity likely to lead to depression and anxiety

Aine O'Boyle

Two new studies suggest that children who are obese are more likely to suffer with depression and anxiety and pose a much higher risk for premature death in early adulthood.

The studies from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked at previous research that linked childhood obesity with an increased risk of premature death in middle adulthood and set out to uncover whether it could also be linked to premature death in early adulthood.

The researchers looked at around 7,000 people who had received treatment for childhood obesity between the ages of three to 17 and compared them to a general group of 34,000 people to see if they were more likely to die prematurely.

They concluded that those who were obese as children were three times more likely to die in early adulthood compared to the general group of people they analysed, with the average age of death being just 22-years-old.

“Our study shows that children with obesity have a significantly higher risk of premature mortality already as young adults.” said one of the study’s authors, Emilia Hagman, of the Karolinska Institute.

“Both the risk of death from somatic diseases, of which more than a quarter were directly related to obesity, and the risk of suicide were increased for this group.”

According to the World Health Organisation, childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century.

Possible explanations for the findings of this study may be that childhood obesity has also been linked to other diseases such as diabetes, liver disease and high blood pressure. It also stated that young people with obesity often find themselves more exposed to discrimination which could cause them to suffer from mental health issues.

The research group also conducted a different study relating to childhood obesity that found that girls with obesity had a 43 per cent increased risk of suffering with depression and anxiety and boys with obesity had a 33 per cent increased risk.

“Taken together, our studies highlight the vulnerable situation that children with obesity are in. Anxiety and depression cause emotional and physiological stress and suffering, and may also hinder obesity treatment.

“It is important that children with obesity are offered adequate and long-term treatment early in life to reduce these risks,” the researchers said.

Aine O’Boyle

Image Credit: Public Domain Pictures