Childhood obesity is a disturbing national epidemic which has increased in prevalence over the last three decades. According to the CDC, approximately 15 percent of children and teens are now obese, and many more are overweight for height range. Obese kids are more likely to go on to become overweight adults, with statistics suggesting that 30 percent of adult obesity begins during childhood.
Childhood Obesity Definition
Obesity is defined as an excessive amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass. This is generally calculated by physicians as body mass index (BMI), a formula that takes into account height. This is calculated by taking your weight in pounds and dividing that by the square of your height in inches and then multiplying that figure by 703. The American Academy of Pediatrics has adopted a policy for identifying and preventing childhood obesity by having doctors assess the risk during early childhood based on BMI percentile.
Causes of Obesity
Scientists believe that a complex multi-factorial cause exists for childhood obesity. Genetics, physical activity, and nutrition all appear to contribute to being overweight. When both parents are obese, a child has an 80 percent chance of also being overweight. Factors that contribute to this condition include overeating, lack of exercise, pressures from society, and poor dietary habits.
Obesity during youth contributes to low self-esteem. An obese child or adolescent often feels out of place among thin peers, leading to low levels of self-esteem. Researchers found that obese children between the ages of 9 and 12 years of age felt a low self-worth compared to those of average weight.
Another significant psychological effect of obesity is that it leads to a depressed mood, according to experts. Obese tweens and teens have been found to show more negative peer reactions compared to those of normal size. Positive social interactions are necessary for a child’s psychological well-being, and with obesity, depression often sets in and leads to poor mental health.
Another serious concern for obese and overweight kids is that they tend to have more behavior problems than children of average weight. Parents report that obese children have more “internalizing” problems, such as anger directed inward. This is often manifested with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. Obese and overweight children and teens also have been found to have more “externalizing” problems, which are those directed outward in the form of back talk, defiance, and aggression.nal Journal of Child Health and Human Development 2009. 1: 377-384.