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What Impact Does Obesity Have On A Child’s Psychological Wellbeing?

As the world prepares to observe World Obesity Day on 4 March, Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, highlights the issue of childhood obesity and its impact on a child’s psychological wellbeing.


Childhood obesity is a growing concern worldwide, with an estimated 41 million children under five affected by it. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as “an abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that presents a health risk”.


Obesity not only increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, but also significantly impacts a child’s psychological wellbeing.

The Link Between Obesity and Mental Health Problems

Obesity and mental health problems are closely linked, and children who are obese are more likely to experience psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and social isolation.

These issues can have a long-term impact on a child’s mental health and wellbeing, leading to a reduced quality of life, poor academic performance, and increased risk of suicidal behaviours.


One of the primary reasons for the link between obesity and mental health issues is the negative social stigma associated with obesity. Children who are overweight or obese are often subject to teasing, bullying, and discrimination from their peers, which can lead to feelings of social isolation and low self-esteem.


Low Self-Esteem and Social Isolation

Obesity can also affect a child’s ability to participate in social and physical activities, further worsening feelings of social isolation and low self-esteem.


A study by the University of Michigan found that obese children have a 63% higher risk of developing a mental health disorder, such as depression or anxiety than their non-obese peers. The study also found that children who are obese are more likely to engage in risky behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug use, which can further deteriorate mental health issues.


Preventing childhood obesity is a shared responsibility of parents, caregivers, healthcare professionals, schools, and policymakers.


There are several ways to prevent and manage childhood obesity, such as encouraging healthy eating habits, promoting physical activity, and limiting screen time.


Parents can encourage their children to participate in physical activities, such as team sports, dancing, or swimming, and limit their screen time to two hours per day.

Improving Your Obese Child’s Psychological Wellbeing:

Strategies and Approaches for Parents

Here are five ways parents can help an obese child improve their psychological wellbeing:

1. Encourage a Positive Body Image

Encourage your child to have a positive body image and help them focus on their strengths and abilities. Focus on activities that make them feel good about themselves and help them develop a sense of self-worth. This can be anything from playing a musical instrument to participating in sports, art, or drama.

2. Teach Healthy Coping Strategies

Teach your child healthy coping strategies, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity. Encourage your child to express their feelings through writing, drawing, or talking to a trusted friend or family member.

3. Focus on Healthy Habits, Not Weight Loss

Weight loss should not be the primary goal for an obese child’s health.


Instead, the focus should be on developing healthy habits such as nutritious foods, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.


Emphasise the importance of self-care and stress that healthy habits are a lifelong commitment.


4. Provide a Supportive Environment

A supportive environment is essential for an obese child’s mental and emotional wellbeing. This includes support from family, friends, and health professionals.

5. Empower Your Child

Encourage your child to set goals for themselves and develop a plan to achieve them. Help your child develop problem-solving skills and decision-making abilities, which can improve their confidence and self-esteem.


“Helping an obese child improve their psychological wellbeing requires a multifaceted approach,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.


“It’s important to approach the child’s needs with empathy and patience, recognising that improving their psychological wellbeing is a journey that requires ongoing support and encouragement.”

About Affinity Health 

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to always give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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