One of the more disturbing trends in today’s society is that of childhood obesity. It has become an epidemic around the United States in the last two decades. Since the 1970s, there has been an alarming growth in the statistics of children and young adults who are considered to be obese. It is estimated today that nearly fifteen percent of all children living in our society are at least overweight, if not obese. While it is easy to diagnose obesity, it is not a condition that is very easy to treat. If an overweight child is not able to curb her eating habits and adapt to regular cycles of exercise, it is likely that she will grow in to an obese adult. The fact is, thirty percent of obese adults were obese children. Deaths related to obesity causes number in six digit figures annually, and society is forced to spend nearly $100 billion each year in taxes related to obesity problems.
What causes obesity in children and young adults? The causes can be linked to a variety of factors, including nutrition, family, genetics, and physical activity. If one has an obese parent, the chances are 50-50 that the child will grow up to be obese. When both parents struggle with this problem, the percentage of risk is even greater – eighty percent. While genetics to do play a significant role in factoring obesity, it is important to keep in mind that bad eating habits, stress, and lack of exercise can also contribute to overweight and obesity.
The effects of childhood obesity are numerous. High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the development of diseases such as type 2 diabetes are all major health risks that result from obesity. Obese adults frequently struggle against heart disease. Children with a normal healthy rate rarely suffer from these conditions.
What’s more, obesity can have serious psychological effects on children. The biggest problem is with self-esteem issues that results from discrimination on a social level. One recent study had obese children rate their general quality of life; they scored as low as cancer patients in chemotherapy. The children were asked to fill out a questionnaire rating their abilities to perform every day activities such as get along with others in their peer group, keep up with the rest of the class in school, sleep well, play sports, and walk a distance of more than one city block. Obese children scored low in all these areas, indicating that their quality of life was very low. Parents who were asked to fill out a similar questionnaire about their children ranked even lower in their assessment of their children’s quality of life.
We live in a culture that sends out very strong messages about ideal beauty and body weight. Girls are encouraged to constantly diet and exercise until they attain a fit, thin body. Boys are told to constantly work out and do whatever is necessary to attain a buff, muscular façade. This puts both obese boys and obese girls at risk for developing psychological and eating disorders.