Obese boys suffer more than girls, study says
The idea that negative body image is mostly a female problem is being turned on its head.
Recent studies have already shed light on the fact that men are suffering from eating disorders now more than ever, and even newer research also suggests that young, obese boys may have a harder time with body image issues than their female peers.
Overweight school boys have lower self-esteem
A team at the Westmead Millenium Institute in Sydney studied more than 2,000 school-age children through interviews, following up with the kids five years later. They found that obesity was a significant factor that decreased quality of life for boys - even more so than for girls.
Head researcher Dr. Bamini Gopinath says that boys may struggle more than girls because of the expectations that revolve around team sports:
Particularly with the Australian culture, the participation in sports for boys is quite an important aspect. So it could be that the overweight or obese boys tended to not participate so much in sporting activities and therefore this could have an adverse impact on their body image, self-esteem.
Mental health problems?
Gopinath also says the findings point to a need for better public health programs that can help prevent childhood obesity. Boys, she says, might suffer from more mental health issues due to obesity-related bullying or self-esteem issues, and both parents and caregivers need to be aware of that.
"I think the take-home message is that we need to be more aware that obesity or excess weight in teenagers doesn't only signal an increased risk of cardiovascular disease ... but it could also signal an increased risk of mental health problems or social and emotional problems that we would need to be aware of," she said.
Further studies would be needed to assess how childhood mental health issues because of obesity could be exacerbated later in life, Gopinath concludes.
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