Consequences of Childhood Overweight and Obesity

Overweight and obesity in childhood (including adolescence) is associated with serious physiological, psychological, and social consequences, as listed below.  Many of these consequences manifest during childhood, others later in life.  Of great concern is that children who are overweight or obese are also more likely to be overweight or obese as adults (Freedman et al., 2005; Wang et al., 2008).  And, perhaps even more disturbing, today’s youth may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents because of the high prevalence of obesity (Olshansky et al., 2005).  Obesity has substantial economic consequences as well: one study estimates costs at $11 billion for children with private insurance and $3 billion for children enrolled in Medicaid (Marder & Chang, 2005).

Physiological Consequences of Childhood Overweight and Obesity

  • Diabetes (Daniels, 2009)
  • Atherosclerosis (Daniels, 2009)
  • Dyslipidemia (e.g., high blood triglycerides, high cholesterol) (Daniels, 2009)
  • High blood pressure (Daniels, 2009)
  • Metabolic syndrome (Daniels, 2009)
  • Gallbladder disease (Ebbeling et al., 2002; Wang & Dietz, 2002)
  • Liver disease (Daniels, 2009)
  • Asthma (Flaherman & Rutherford, 2006; Story, 2007)
  • Allergies (Visness et al., 2009)
  • Sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing (Bixler et al., 2009; Daniels, 2009)
  • Orthopedic complications (Daniels, 2009)
  • Multiple sclerosis (Munger et al., 2009)
  • Iron deficiency (Tussing-Humphreys et al., 2009)
  • Earlier onset of puberty (Kaplowitz, 2008; Lee et al., 2010)
  • Poor health-related quality of life (Tsiros et al., 2009)
  • Premature death later in life (Franks et al., 2010)

Psychological and Social Consequences of Childhood Overweight and Obesity

  • Depression (Boutelle et al., 2010; Mustillo et al., 2003)
  • Anxiety (Anderson et al., 2007)
  • Low self-esteem (Hesketh et al., 2004; McClure et al., 2010)
  • Feelings of worthlessness or inferiority (BeLue et al., 2009)
  • Body dissatisfaction (Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2002)
  • Disordered eating and unhealthy weight control behaviors (Haines & Neumark-Sztainer, 2006; Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2002)
  • Substance use (Farhat et al., 2010)
  • Peer victimization (e.g., victims and perpetrators of bullying) (Farhat et al., 2010; Griffiths et al., 2003; Lumeng et al., 2010)
  • Negative stereotyping, stigmatization, and teasing (Puhl & Brownell, 2001; Puhl & Latner, 2007; van den Berg et al., 2008)
  • Behavior problems (BeLue et al., 2009; Mustillo et al., 2003)
  • Poor academic performance (Bethell et al., 2010; Krukowski et al., 2009; Taras & Potts-Datema, 2005)
  • School absenteeism (Bethell et al., 2010; Geier et al., 2007)