July 6, 2009

Overweight kids lonelier, more anxious

Overweight children, especially girls, show signs of the negative consequences of being overweight as early as kindergarten, U.S. researchers said.

Sara Gable of the University of Missouri said researchers used the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort to examine the social and behavioral development of 8,000 school-age children from kindergarten entry through third grade.

The researchers evaluated factors that have not been studied previously: age at becoming overweight and length of time being overweight.

We found that both boys and girls who were overweight from kindergarten through third grade displayed more depression, anxiety and loneliness than kids who were never overweight, and those negative feelings worsened over time, Gable said in a statement.

Overweight is widely considered a stigmatizing condition and overweight individuals are typically blamed for their situation. The experience of being stigmatized often leads to negative feelings, even in children.

Girls who were consistently overweight, from kindergarten through third grade, and girls who were approaching being overweight were viewed less favorably than girls who were never overweight, Gable added.

The findings were published in Applied Developmental Science.