Overweight and obese teens may face serious physical and emotional problems now and later. Learn how obesity can affect quality of life in teens.
For most adolescents, the teen years are a confusing time of change, filled with emotional ups and downs. Teens worry about their appearance and how others, especially their peers, see them. They want to fit in.
Being overweight not only adds to this emotional struggle but also puts teens at risk for health problems. Obesity can have immediate and lasting negative effects on both the physical and emotional aspects of an adolescent’s life.
The physical toll
During the teen years, obesity increases the risk of many health problems, including:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
On top of the health effects of obesity, overweight teens may have a hard time keeping up with their peers when playing sports or in gym class.
What’s more, three out of four obese teens become obese adults. Besides the conditions listed above, obesity in adulthood raises the risk of other serious health conditions, such as:
- Heart disease
- Some forms of cancer
The emotional toll
The emotional impact of obesity can be just as damaging and long-lasting as the physical toll. Obese teens and adults often face prejudice and unfair treatment because of their weight. Adolescents may also be subjected to this weight bias in their everyday life at home, in school, and at work.
Overweight teens are often teased about their weight by peers and family members. Studies show that overweight teens teased about their weight are at greater risk of:
- Low self-esteem
- Suicidal thoughts
- Disordered eating behaviors such as fasting, taking laxatives, vomiting, or binge eating
Low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence may cause teens to withdrawal socially and do worse in school. These effects continue to ripple through college, impacting career choice and job prospects. Research also shows that obese students are less likely to attend college than non-obese students.
Further, studies show that weight-teasing in adolescence predicts poorer emotional health in early adulthood. People who were teased in childhood or adolescence are at higher risk for depression as adults.
How can I help my overweight teen?
Let your teen know that you are available to talk and give guidance when he or she wants it. Also, it’s important to watch for signs of low self-esteem or social withdrawal. Talk with your child’s doctor if you think your child is depressed.
To help teens feel better about themselves, no matter what their weight:
- Make sure they feel loved, accepted, and supported at home.
- Don’t tease or criticize them about their faults or mistakes.
- Support their strengths with praise and encouragement.
Finally, encourage healthy eating habits and regular physical activity for the entire family. By being a positive role model, you can help your teen develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime.