Information published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals that around a quarter of all Australian children aged 5-17 years are either overweight or obese.
Extra weight puts children and teenagers at risk of serious health problems such as:
- Type 2 diabetes;
- High blood pressure;
- Heart disease;
- Sleep apnoea;
- High cholesterol; and
- Joint problems.
Psychological Impacts of Childhood Obesity
But the effects of being overweight or obese as a child or adolescent are not limited to the physiological ones. Studies show that it can also have psychological impacts such as:
- Sleep disorders;
- Engaging in high risk behaviour;
- Emotional eating;
- Lack of confidence; and
- Low self-esteem.
Irene Alton (2005) said “’the psychosocial risks of adolescent overweight may be significant and potentially severe”. In a society where television, movies, games and toys convey an image of ideal beauty and shape, being overweight could lead to discrimination and victimisation.
Overweight and obese children and teens may be subject to bullying, and this will have to be addressed as it can lead to your child being withdrawn or avoiding social contact. This may further impact on your child’s desire to go to school, and their general academic performance.
How do I know if my child is obese?
If you suspect your child is overweight or obese, a visit to your doctor is advised, to assess your child’s overall health and to calculate your child’s BMI (Body Mass index). BMI is a good indicator, but should be interpreted carefully during adolescence.
A multidisciplinary approach (doctor, dietician, and psychologist) is the best way to address weight issues. These professionals will focus on different areas: health, food intake, exercise, mood and motivation.
If your child or teenager is having weight issues, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you both to discuss some goals and strategies to improve both your child’s physical and psychological wellbeing.
Author: Meggy Delaunay, PG Dip Psych Practice, PG Dip Dev Psych, M Genetic Psych, B Psych, MAPS.
Meggy Delaunay is a psychologist who primarily works with children, adolescents and young adults. She is a registered Psychologist in Australia, New Zealand and France, and can provide therapy sessions in English and French.
Please call 1800 877 924 to make an appointment or find out how to book online with Meggy Delaunay now!
Please note: Meggy Delaunay is currently not practising.
Alton, I. (2005). The Overweight Adolescent. In J. Stang & M. Story (Eds.), Guidelines for adolescent nutrition services (pp. 77-91).