MIL OSI – Source: University Of Auckland – Release/Statement
Headline: Kids with weight issues at high risk of emotional and behavioural problems: study
A new, in-depth study of New Zealand children and teenagers seeking help with weight issues has found their emotional health and wellbeing is, on average, markedly worse than that of children without weight issues.
Researchers found a concerning level of emotional and behavioural problems, and say these findings highlight how important it is that obesity programmes involve psychologists.
The 233 children in the study were assessed when they enrolled in a community-based, 12-month intervention programme in Taranaki called Whānau Pakari. Aged 4-16, the participants had BMIs in the clinically obese range, and many had weight-related health problems.
Both parents and children filled out separate versions of a questionnaire that measures “health-related quality of life”. Parents (or the child if aged more than 11 years) filled out a second questionnaire to screen for behavioural and emotional difficulties, such as anxiety, sleep issues and aggression.
- Over four in 10 (44 percent) of children in the study had scores indicating a high likelihood of emotional and behavioural problems, six times the rate typically found in young people
- Nearly three in 10 (28 percent) had scores indicating a high likelihood of psychological difficulties serious enough to warrant intervention
- On average, the children’s quality of life as reported by their parents was comparable to that for children and teens diagnosed with cancer, and lower than a comparison group of Taranaki children living with a chronic health condition, Type 1 diabetes, which requires daily testing and treatment
- The greater the participants’ BMI, the lower their quality of life scores
- Reported quality of life was lowest in participants who experienced breathing pauses (linked to a sleep condition called obstructive sleep apnoea), headaches, difficulty getting to sleep, and/or developmental problems
- Obesity itself, rather than ethnicity or financial hardship, appeared to be the main contributing factor for young people’s lower quality of life in this cohort
“This study highlights that a large proportion of children and teens struggling with weight issues are also highly likely to be affected by psychological problems, and in turn, lower quality of life,” says Dr Yvonne Anderson, Liggins Institute researcher, Taranaki paediatrician and co-author of the study.
“However, it is important to note that these results come from a group that were seeking help with their weight, so these findings cannot be generalised to all who have obesity,” she says.