Biological, Social and Psychological Dimensions of Childhood Obesity
University of Thessaly, Greece
Supervisor: S. M. Piperakis
The highly negative biological and psychosocial effects of obesity on individuals are evident from childhood. The general impression that obesity is not an illness does not allow for taking emergency measures for treatment or prevention of obesity on behalf of paediatricians, parents and the state.
The aim of present study was to investigate the decisive factors that influence childhood obesity on the biological, social and psychological level.
2200 students attending fifth grade took part in the study. 339 questionnaires were excluded due to incomplete or incorrect handling, reducing, thus, the final number of participants to 1861.
Participants answered an Interview questionnaire, a Questionnaire of Dietary Habits, the Questionnaire Recording Stigma and, finally, the Self Description Questionnaire. Participants’ Body Mass Index was also estimated. The questionnaires used either were constructed for the purpose of the present study or selected from the relevant literature. Recording of the prevalence of childhood obesity in the region of Thessaly, Greece and potential relationships among childhood obesity and biological and psychosocial factors were the main objectives of the present study. The study also aimed at the investigation of social exclusion and rejection of obese children and, finally, of how obese children perceive themselves.
Our results revealed that the total prevalence of obesity comes up to 31,7% (22.6% overweight and 9.1% obese children), with boys holding higher overweight percentages (28.7%) than girls (16.6%), and higher obesity percentages (10.9%) in contrast to girls (7.3%). Differences in BMI scores were not observed among obese, overweight, normal and underweight children. Educational and socio-economic level of both parents correlates negatively with childhood obesity. As regards the relationship of number of family members with childhood obesity, our results revealed that obesity is more common within small size families. In addition, a correlation was observed between obesity and the existence of 1st degree obese relative, while no correlation was found between childhood obesity and the existence of asthma or diabetes. Results also showed that overweight and obese children were less active than normal children. Finally, no positive correlation was found between the consumption of unwholesome products and childhood obesity.Regarding stigma towards obese children, our results revealed that children stigmatize their obese peers. All children, regardless of their body weight, were found to have negative attitudes toward obese children. It was also highlighted that bias against obesity exists not only among underweight and children with normal weight, but also among obese children and that stigmatization of obesity begins at an early age.As regards self concept, our study revealed that obese children were vulnerable to problems connected with low self-esteem while no statistically significant differences were found between obese boys and girls. Self-esteem of obese children, regardless of gender, seems to be tattered by their excessive body weight.