A new study shows children who are obese are more likely to have behavior problems than those who are not overweight.
Researchers from the University of Michigan studied more than 750 children between ages 8 and 11. The children and their parents took part in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and were questioned about weight, behavior, physical and mental health, education, demographic, and socioeconomic status. Children were classified as overweight if their body mass index was at or above the 95th percentile. They were classified as having a behavior problem if their scores from the Behavior Problems Index test were in the 90th percentile.
Results of the study show children who have significant behavior problems are nearly three-times as likely to be overweight as other children. Researchers also found that children with behavior problems are nearly five-times more likely to become overweight later in life.
Julie Lumeng, M.D., author of the study, says, "This demonstrates solidly for the first time what we have suspected for years from clinical experience, that there is an association between behavior problems and obesity, and that a child with behavior problems is more likely to go on to be overweight. This is true regardless of socioeconomic status."
Researchers estimate that one in five American children between ages 6 and 11 are overweight. Dr. Lumeng says her findings should be a wake-up call to parents, teachers and physicians. She concludes, "We can't ignore either the mind or the body in trying to prevent the lifelong health effects from weight problems and mental disorders that start in childhood. When interventions aren't working with a child who is overweight, we need to address his or her mental well-being and vice versa for kids with behavior problems."