Adolescent Obesity Leads to Depression, exclaims Mumbai Doctors

In its 2023 Atlas, the World Obesity Federation has predicted that in the next 12 years, more than 51% of the world’s population will be overweight or obese.

Adolescent Obesity Leads to Depression, exclaims Mumbai Doctors
(Representational Image)

Obesity is one of the fastest growing chronic health conditions. In its 2023 Atlas, the World Obesity Federation has predicted that in the next 12 years, more than 51% of the world’s population will be overweight or obese. It is also alarming to see that rates of obesity are rising very quickly in children and adolescents.

Obesity in children is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of more than the 95th percentile for age and gender. The causes are multifactorial and it results from a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, behavioural, and cultural factors. Obesity has a huge impact not only on physical health but also on psycho-social and mental health.

“When compared with normal-weight children, those with obesity have a 32% greater chance of developing depression. This number is even higher for young girls and they have a 44% higher chance of developing depression when compared with normal-weight girls. In addition to all the physical comorbidities associated with obesity, children and adolescents with obesity suffer from higher rates of depression, low self-esteem, and weight bias both in school and family settings. They face a lot of bullying, teasing, and abuse. Children with obesity repeatedly find themselves to be at the centre of a joke. They have difficulty making friends and face difficulty socializing leading to low self-confidence,” said Dr. Aparna Govil Bhasker, Consultant Bariatric and Laparoscopic Surgeon, Saifee, Namaha and Apollo Spectra Hospitals, Kandivali.

Dr. Bhasker added, “Peers and teachers tend to look down upon them and wrongly assume that their academic performance would be inferior to normal-weight children/adolescents. Weight stigma and bias are also commonly seen in the family setting. Parents’ lack of knowledge and awareness about obesity leads to an inability to guide their children and may sometimes lead to increased mental anxiety in both. Children with obesity tend to suffer from neglect and are poorly treated. Together, this can lead to increased stress which further aggravates emotional eating behaviour, poor sleep, and fatigue, in turn leading to more weight gain.”

Both parents and teachers have an important role to play when it comes to supporting children and adolescents with obesity. “First of all, it is important to understand that obesity is a disease like many others and it can affect anyone. Parents have a greater responsibility in being role models to their children when it comes to eating behaviour and exercise discipline. Children tend to emulate their parents and are also dependent on them for food. Parents must be conscious about inculcating good eating habits in their children. They must limit exposure to junk food and sugary drinks and encourage kids to have more fresh fruits and vegetables. Screen time must be limited and there must be an emphasis on pushing the children out to play in open areas. Parents themselves must have an exercise routine. Children who are constantly exposed to a healthy lifestyle tend to adopt it more easily when they step into adolescence and adulthood,” highlighted Dr. Aparna Bhasker. 

Similarly, Dr Surabhi Siddhartha, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Kharghar said, Obesity is associated with irregular menstruation, endometrial polyps, stress urinary incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse in later life when it comes to adolescents. It can cause insulin resistance later which is commonly seen in those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Thus, one’s having PCOS will gain weight and may feel embarrassed and lonely. They may also feel depressed, stressed, anxious, and frustrated owing to peer pressure. Being overweight or obese can lower one’s self-esteem and also impact one’s overall well-being. It is essential to lose weight and even take care of your reproductive health at the same time.

Schools also have a huge responsibility too. “Junk food intake must be restricted in schools and school canteens must refrain from stocking junk food, bakery products, and sugary foods and drinks. Schools must understand that academic excellence is of no use if the children are not fit and healthy. Hence, there must be an increased focus on physical activity and sports in school. At a community level, it is essential to recognize that obesity is emerging as one of the fastest-growing non-communicable diseases. We need to become cognisant of the obesogenic environment and stop targeting children through advertising junk food. Governments must act upon this before it is too late. Beyond a certain stage, children and adolescents with obesity need medical attention and must be taken to obesity specialists for further guidance. Not all fat is baby fat and can be harmful to health if not treated in time to avoid physical and psychological issues related to obesity,” concluded Dr. Bhasker.

MumbaiLive would like to send you latest news updates