Childhood obesity has grown to epidemic levels in the past 30 years. From 1980 to 2008 the rate of childhood obesity more than tripled among children ages 6 to 19 years. Childhood obesity occurs when children consume more calories than they burn on a daily basis. Children who experience childhood obesity face an increased risk for physical illness such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and Type II diabetes. Additionally, children who live with childhood obesity are at an increased risk for other serious physical illnesses as adults, including many types of cancers.
A Recent study released by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) indicated that the risk to children living with childhood obesity may now include depression. A longitudinal study of individuals from ages 14 to 31 indicated a link between childhood obesity and depression in adulthood. The NCBI study indicated that children who live with childhood obesity and individuals who experience depression may share similar symptoms.
Some of the symptoms shared by individuals who experience depression and children who live with childhood obesity include, sleep disturbances, lack of physical activity and loss of interest in activities as well as changes in eating patterns. Individuals who experience depression as well as children who live with childhood obesity often experience a negative self image, and feelings of guilt and shame. Other common links between depression and childhood obesity include stress and inflammation which indicates a compromised immune system.
Although childhood obesity and depression are two separate and serious health issues for Americans, the apparent combination has caught health care professionals without standard treatment practices that are designed for children and adolescents. Although standard treatments for adult depression often include therapy and medication, these interventions, especially medical interventions, were not designed for children and adolescents and have not been specifically tested for use with children and adolescents. A study that measured the effectiveness of “adult” depression treatments when used with adolescents found that only 37% of those treated responded to the interventions. Further, the failure of lifestyle interventions for children with childhood obesity including changing eating habits and increasing physical activity has led to the increased use of weight reduction surgery on morbidly obese adolescents; another intervention initially intended for adults.
Childhood obesity and depression are rapidly increasing to epidemic levels. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U. S., and chronic illnesses, like those associated with childhood obesity, are responsible for 70% of the deaths in the U.S. each year. This is a healthcare crisis in which parents, communities, and local, state and federal governments must all play a part in the education, and implementation of healthy lifestyles for America’s children.
Addressing Childhood Obesity Through Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/obesity/pdf/addressing_obesity.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Healthy Youth Health Topics: Childhood Obesity, Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/obesity/index.htm
Reeves, G.M., Postolache, T. T. , & Snitker, S. (2008)Childhood obesity and depression: Connection between these growing problems in growing children. International Journal of Child Health and Human Development, 1 (2), 103-114. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568994/