Children with Mental Health Problems Have Greater Risk of Obesity

It has long been known that there is a connection between mental health and physical health. As a result, there is also a connection between mental wellness and obesity. According to a new study, children with emotional difficulties are at a higher risk for developing obesity in adult life.

Science Daily reports that this study was conducted by Andrew Ternouth, David Collier, and Barbara Maughan from the MRC Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London.

The researchers studied data from about 6,500 members of the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study. These members had been assessed for emotional problems, self-perceptions, and body mass index (BMI) at ten years old. BMI was reported again at age 30.

Children in this study who had lower self-esteem, who felt less in control of their lives, and who worried often were more likely to gain weight. At the same time, girls were slightly more affected by these factors than boys.

“While we cannot say that childhood emotional problems cause obesity in later life, we can certainly say they play a role, along with factors such as parental BMI, diet and exercise,” said Ternouth.

Author suggestions include early intervention for children suffering from low self-esteem, anxiety, or other emotional challenges as it could help to improve their chances of long-term physical health.

Ternouth continued, “Strategies to promote social and emotional aspects of learning, including the promotion of self-esteem, are central to a number of recent policy initiatives. Our findings suggest that approaches of this kind may carry positive benefits for physical health as well as for other aspects of children’s development.”

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