London, March 20 : Parents, kindly take note. Researchers have found that children with obesity may have a higher risk of anxiety, depression and three times higher risk of mortality in early adulthood.
According to the researchers, prior studies have linked childhood obesity with an increased risk of premature mortality from middle adulthood.
Two new studies from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, published in PLOS Medicine and BMC Medicine, highlight the need to identify specific risk factors for children with obesity and find preventative tools, according to the researchers.
"Our study shows that children with obesity have a significantly higher risk of premature mortality already as young adults," said study researcher Emilia Hagman from Karolinska Institutet.
"Both the risk of death from somatic diseases, of which more than a quarter were directly related to obesity, and the risk of suicide were increased for this group," Hagman added.
The researchers wanted to find out if children with obesity also have a higher risk of premature death in early adulthood as well as if children with obesity are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than other children.
In the first study in the journal PLOS Medicine, the researchers showed that people with obesity in childhood have a three times higher risk of dying in early adulthood than a comparison group from the general population.
The study included about 7,000 individuals who received obesity treatment at some point between the ages of 3 and 17.
They were matched with some 34,000 people of the same age, gender and area of residence. A total of 39 people (0.55 per cent) in the childhood obesity group died during the average follow-up period of 3.6 years compared with 65 (0.19 per cent) in the control group.
The average age at the time of death was 22 years.
According to the researchers, possible explanations for the findings may be that childhood obesity has been linked to somatic diseases such as diabetes, liver disease and high blood pressure.
Children and adolescents with obesity are also more exposed to discrimination, which could lead to psychological problems.
Another study by the same research group in BMC Medicine found that obesity was linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
Girls with obesity had a 43 per cent higher risk of anxiety and depression than girls from the general population while boys with obesity had a 33 percent higher risk than their peers.
The study included more than 12,000 children between the ages of 6-17 who were treated for obesity and compared with a matched group of 60,000 children from the general population.
The associations remained after the researchers adjusted for other risk factors such as Nordic background, neuropsychiatric disorders, family history of anxiety or depression and socioeconomic status.