Psyc 213 Lifespan Development Psychology
Obesity is the major threat to children’s health and development in industrialised countries Abstract
Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialised world. This has resulted in an increased risk of a number of chronic diseases such as heart disease, insulin resistant and type 2 diabetes and some cancers. In addition there are respiratory and skin disorders and musculoskeletal issues which adversely affect those suffering from the complications of obesity. Further compounding these physiological issues are the negative sociocultural attitudes in western society towards overweight people. Obese children are subjected to bullying, teasing, discrimination and social exclusion. The psychological impact of these harmful experiences can include body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and eating disorders. On a basic level weight gain occurs when more calories are consumed than are expended. In the industrialised world, there are many environmental factors that corrode healthy lifestyle choices; with less opportunities for physical activity for children and an increase in availability of high fat, nutrient deficient food.
The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide. In the last two decades the number of obese people worldwide has surged to 1.4 billion, and has been described as a global epidemic, (World Health Organisation, [WHO] 2013). According to a new report from the Washington DC based research organization, the Worldwatch Institute, the number of overweight people has surpassed the number of underweight people for the first time in the history of the world (Gardner & Halwell, 2000). Additionally, the prevalence of childhood obesity has increased considerably in the past 20yrs; fast developing into an alarming global pandemic (Gardner et al, 2000). The World Health Organisation reported more than 40 million children under the age of five to be overweight in 2013 (WHO, 2013). Weight gain and obesity pose a growing threat to health in industrialised countries, and are increasingly becoming a concern in developing countries. It is a persistent disease, affecting children as well as adults and has began to replace infectious disease, among other health concerns, as one of the most significant contributors to poor health (Deckelbaum & Williams, 2001). Obesity is associated with many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Alarmingly, obesity in childhood is a key predictor for obesity in adulthood (Deckelbaum, et al., 2001); because of this, an increase in childhood obesity is clearly a major contributor to the adult obesity epidemic. Moreover, according to Deckelbaum, et al (2001), “morbidity and mortality in the adult population is increased in individuals who were overweight in adolescence” (para. 2, p. 239S), even if the excess weight is lost during adulthood. The perseverance of childhood obesity into adulthood increase in accordance to the age obesity is reached (Goran, 1999). Data from the NSW government (2012) states that 25-50 percent of obese children progress into adult obesity, rising sharply to as high as 78 percent in older obese adolescents.
There are additional social and psychological consequences for overweight and obese children and adolescents. A number of studies have shown that obese children are often stigmatised, subjected to negative stereotyping, teasing, exclusion, bullying and discrimination by their peers; experiences which are associated with low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, anxiety and depression, in addition to behavioural issues (Braet, Mervielde and Vandereycken, 1997). The psychological stress associated with the stigmatism of obesity may be as damaging as the physical morbidities (Braet, et al., 1997). In terms of social