Previous studies have linked depression and obesity. It has been previously found that adults who are depressed are more likely to gain weight and eventually become obese. Similarly, those individuals who are obese have also been found to be at a higher risk of suffering from depression. Both of these conditions are considered public health concerns today. In a previous post, we looked at how scientists have confirmed that obesity causes cognitive impairment as well. Clearly, excess fat in the body has a drastic impact on mental health.
Even though this link was made before, scientists have only now turned their attention toward children.
In a new study, published by the European Association for the Study of Obesity, scientists note a strong link between childhood obesity and the risk of developing mental illness at a young age.
The World Health Organization reports that there are more than 340 million children and teenagers throughout the world who are overweight, with a significant number of these young individuals being obese. These statistics account for people aged five to 19.
Obesity at such a young age predisposes the child or the teenager to a number of adverse conditions. They may grow up with heart disease, a significantly higher risk for diabetes, and even breathing difficulties.
In the new study, which was officially reported by Science Daily on the 27th of April, 2019, scientists explain that they did a nationwide study among Swedish children. There were more than 72,000 children involved in the study. Just over 12,000 of these children had previously undergone treatment for obesity. The remainder of the children were part of a control group, which means they were at a healthy weight.
The study found that among girls who were obese, there was a 43% increase in their risk of developing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The risk was lower in boys, however, at 33%, but still a concern that definitely needs mentioning.
Scientists who were involved in this study are now urging physicians to be more wary of these facts. When a child presents with obesity in the physician’s office, they should not only provide treatment for reducing their weight, but also examine their mental health. The presence of depression and anxiety disorders among children can be frightening to the young one. Mental illness may interfere with their ability to thrive academically. It may also have an impact on their mental growth during childhood.
All of these factors ultimately need to be taken into account. Parents also need to become more aware of the fact that there are several strategies that can be used to help children maintain a healthy weight. In cases where a child has gained excess pounds, an effective treatment protocol needs to be developed to help them lose weight – without putting their health at risk.