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Looking at the mental health of severely obese children


A report examines whether children and adolescents who have severe obesity have differences in certain psychological and behavioral attributes than their peers.

Obesity can be related to certain psychological and behavioral attributes. A recent report in BMC Pediatrics compared those attributes between children and adolescents who were overweight or non-severe obese with those who had severe obesity.1

The investigators invited children and adolescents with a body mass index ≥ 85th percentile to engage in a prospective research registry. The participants were asked about their family characteristics, dietary intake, physical activity, cardiometabolic parameters, perception of health and mental well-being, and eating behaviors.

A racially/ethnically diverse cohort of 105 participants were included in the study. In this cohort, 51% of the participants had severe obesity. With higher levels of obesity the percentage of body fat percentage increased. No difference was seen in the self-reported frequency of consumption of intake of sugar sweetened beverages and fresh produce across all of the weight categories. Among the participants with severe obesity, higher levels of emotional eating and eating were reported (p = 0.022) as well as higher levels of stress (p = 0.013). They also reported engaging in fewer sports or organized activities (p = 0.044) and had a suboptimal perception of their health (p = 0.053). Participants with severe obesity reported asthma, depression and obstructive sleep apnea more frequently as well.

The investigators concluded that children and adolescents who have severe obesity have noticeable differences in both behavioral and psychosocial attributes. These differences can be used to create targeted intervention to improve health.


1. Thaker VV, Osganian SK, deFerranti SD, et al. Psychosocial, behavioral and clinical correlates of children with overweight and obesity. BMC Pediatr. 2020;20(1). doi:10.1186/s12887-020-02145-2

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