Net Exchange Response


Title: Obesity and Mental Health Implications

Date Posted: 4/1/2004

Question: Obesity and Mental Health Implications

Response: A growing chorus is expressing the views that "there is a clear association between obesity and depression and anxiety disorders among children and teens" and "untreated depression is both the cause and effect of obesity."

At the same time, concern is being expressed that the new "campaign against obesity" may have significant unintended negative effects. Among the anticipated mental health consequences are an amplified self-consciousness and embarrassment experienced by children and youth about their body size; possible increases in peer and parent harassment; increased pressures to reach an "ideal" despite genetic predispositions. Those expressing this concern say there is an alternative to campaigns that stigmatize those who are viewed by others as obese. They are calling for an emphasis on approaches that focus less on shaming and blaming and more on promoting healthy physical, social, and emotional development.

>>Where do you weigh in on this? (pun intended -- forgive us) We look forward to your comments (ltaylor@ucla.edu). We will post them here on our website's New Net Exchange for others to read and respond.



Feedback

"The field of public health has some interesting research and resources on promoting healthy behaviors. -- One resource in promoting healthy behaviors is research in Social Cognition theory -- There was a great article summarizing the research by Bandura in the April 2004 Journal of Health Promotion/Health Education. Also, our School is producing a free satellite broadcast on Childhood Obesity on June 17 (in the Third Thursday Breakfast Broadcast Series (http://albany.edu/sph/coned/t2b2.html). Another interesting broadcast is on-line "Think Fresh" -- about public health initiatives to promote eating fruits and vegetables in low income neighborhoods. The New York Public Health Association http://www.nyspha.org website lists many resources for working on obesity. "

"Awareness of weight and nutrition started when people realized we have an obesity epidemic. However, naming obesity as the problem carries myriad difficult mental health implications...as named in the newsletter.
The discussion among school health coordinators and others in New England is shifting toward promoting healthy nutrition rather than fighting obesity. There are lots of normal weight youth who are undernourished from eating high sugar, fat and salt in junk and fast food. As the effort shifts to promoting healthy nutrition, obesity can become a background issue rather than the foreground. Obesity will be impacted, but in a more positive way."


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UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
tel: (310)825-3634
email: smhp@ucla.edu ~ web: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu