• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

Children's Weight May Affect Their Mood And Behaviour: Study

Children who are obese are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Photo Credit :


BMI (body mass index) in children does not appear to have a significant impact on children's mood or behavior problems, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that some previous studies, which have shown a strong link between childhood obesity and mental health, may not have fully considered family and environmental genetics. 

Children who are obese are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But the nature of the relationship between obesity and these mental health problems is unclear. Obesity can contribute to mental health symptoms or vice versa. In addition, a child's environment can contribute to both obesity and mood and behavior disorders.

"We need to better understand the relationship between childhood obesity. This requires separating the genetic contributions of children and parents from environmental factors that affect the whole family," said lead author Amanda Hughes, senior research associate in epidemiology at Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, UK. 

Hughes and his colleagues reviewed the genetic and mental health data of 41,000 eight-year-old children and their parents from the Norwegian mother, father, and child cohort study and the birth registry. They assessed the relationship between the children's BMI - the relationship between weight and height - and symptoms of depression, anxiety and ADHD. To help separate the effects of children's genes from the effects of other factors that affect the whole family, they also took into account parental genetics and BMI.

The analysis showed minimal effect of the child's own BMI on their anxiety symptoms. There is also conflicting evidence about whether children's BMI affects their symptoms of depression or ADHD. This suggests that policies aimed at reducing childhood obesity are unlikely to have a major impact on the prevalence of these conditions. "For this age group at least, the impact of a child's BMI appears small. For older children and adolescents, it may be more significant," said Professor Neil Davies of University College London, UK.

When looking at the effect of parents' BMI on children's mental health, the team found little evidence that parental BMI affects ADHD or other symptoms. anxiety symptoms in children. Data suggests that a higher maternal BMI may be associated with depressive symptoms in children, but there is little evidence of a link between children's mental health and father's BMI.

"Overall, the effect of parental BMI on children's mental health appears to be limited. Therefore, interventions aimed at reducing parental BMI do not appear to be beneficial for children's mental health," said Alexandra Havdahl, a research professor at the University of Norway. 

"Our results suggest that interventions designed to reduce childhood obesity are not likely to result in major improvements in children's mental health. On the other hand, policies that target children's mental health. Focusing on social and environmental factors associated with higher body weight and directly targeting poor mental health in children may be more beneficial,” concludes Hughes.

Tags assigned to this article:
Body Mass Index Health and Wellbeing research