Low self-esteem can lead to obesity later in life

overweight

Those who felt they had less control in their youth were more likely to be overweight when they were older

Children with low self-esteem are more likely to be overweight or obese in later life, according to new research.

A study of 6,500 participants in the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study found 10-year-olds with emotional problems tended to be fatter as adults, according to the BMC Medicine journal.

Study leader Andrew Ternouth from King's College, London, said: 'While we cannot say that childhood emotional problems cause obesity in later life, we can certainly say they play a role, along with factors such as parental BMI, diet and exercise.'

The children had their weight and height measured by a nurse and their emotional status noted down. They self-reported these details when they were 30.

The researchers said those who felt less in control of their lives and those who worried often were more likely to gain weight over the next 20 years. They also found that girls were slightly more affected by these factors than boys.

They suggested that early intervention for children suffering low self-esteem, anxiety or other emotional challenges could help improve their chances of long-term physical health.

Professor Ternouth said: 'Strategies to promote social and emotional aspects of learning, including the promotion of self-esteem, are central to a number of recent policy initiatives.

'Our findings suggest that approaches of this kind may carry positive benefits for physical health as well as for other aspects of children's development.'

The authors concluded: 'Given the growing problem with childhood obesity in many western societies, these findings are particularly important. On a larger scale, they may offer hope in the battle to control the current obesity epidemic.'

Dr Ian Campbell, of the charity, Weight Concern, said: 'This study presents some disturbing evidence that, as we suspected, childhood psychological issues have an influence on future weight gain and health.

"Many of the adults we work with have identifiable underlying emotional and self esteem issues and are often resistant to treatment.

"The message here is that early intervention, in childhood, can be the key to combating adult obesity.'

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