Childhood obesity is one of our most complex challenges. Today in the UK almost 40% of children are overweight or obese. That’s enough to fill Wembley stadium over 45 times. For the first time in history this generation of children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. By nine years.
Because it’s hard to talk about, overweight children are now suffering from adult diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Research suggests that - if untreated - 85% of these children will become obese adults. This statistic alone is reason enough to address weight issues in the early years.
The level of mental ill health in children and young adults is also alarming. Around 10% of children experience mental health issues between the ages of 5 and 16 years of age, approximately 3 in every class. 11% of adolescents are developing depression by the age of 18 years old and 1 in 4 young people experience suicidal thoughts.
In today’s world our children experience high levels of pressures, stress and anxiety, which is negatively affecting their ability to focus, learn, innovate and thrive. Most children and young people are addicted to technology and social media, which facilitates Cyberbullying, directly linked to depression in teenagers. Children and young people struggle to overcome challenges and develop resilience, an Educational Priority supported by the Character Education Grant programme.
Treatment of obesity in children and adolescents requires not only diet and exercise but also measures to address wider social and emotional issues such as self-esteem and social confidence.
There are bi-directional associations between mental health problems and obesity, with levels of obesity, gender, age and socioeconomic status being key risk factors. Weight stigma increases vulnerability to depression, low self-esteem, poor body image, maladaptive eating behaviours and exercise avoidance.
As part of a whole child approach, Reverse the Trend are offering our Healthy Happy Child campaign, which addresses the physical, emotional, cognitive and social challenges of childhood with a view to reversing the trend of childhood obesity.
By considering both the physical and mental health of children, this awareness could lead to prevention and early detection, ultimately reducing the burden of both conditions.
Strategies to enhance self-worth and develop self-efficacy can help overweight children to take control of their wellbeing and reduce the cost of childhood obesity.