Obesity in children

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Obesity in Children is a global problem with weight levels of children and adolescents in many countries including Australia seemingly out of control.

In Australia, one in five children and adolescents are overweight or obese. From 1985 to 1995 the numbers of obese children more than tripled. At the current rate, it is predicted that 65 per cent of young Australians will be overweight or obese by 2020.

Generally, a child or teen is not considered obese until they weigh more than 10 per cent over their recommended weight. Obesity used to occur at a much older age, but unfortunately, it is now often seen starting between the ages of 5 and 6, or during adolescence. Statistically, a child who is obese between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 per cent chance of becoming an obese adult.

Child and adolescent obesity often occurs in tandem with other mental health problems. Teenagers with obesity tend to have: lowered self-esteem, anxiety, depression and even acute conditions like obsessive compulsive disorder.

Causes of obesity in children and adolescents include:

  • Poor eating habits – larger energy intake than energy output
  • Overeating or binge eating
  • Little or no exercise – inactive lifestyle
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Family history of obesity
  • Family and peer driven problems
  • Illness (endocrine, neurological problems)
  • Medications (steroids, some psychiatric medications)

Overcoming obesity in children and adolescents requires a multi-faceted approach and improvements need to be made in eating habits and activities. The first step to recovery is to get to the root of the problem and any underlying issues causing the behaviour.

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