Being overweight or obese significantly reduces health-related quality of life in boys, but not girls, when compared to normal weight peers, finds a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study researchers also found that youngsters of either sex whose weight status changed from overweight/obese to normal also saw their quality of life (QOL) scores improve.
The researchers worked with more than 2,000 Australian schoolchildren who were about 12 years old at the start of the study in 2004-05. They then followed up with the children after five years, using a questionnaire to assess whether being overweight and/or obese, also known as adiposity, influenced their QOL at around age 17 or 18.
Bamini Gopinath, Ph.D., senior research fellow at Westmead Millennium Institute at the University of Sydney in Australia and one of the study's co-authors, stated, "Adiposity in boys was associated with poorer quality of life during adolescence. This association was not observed among girls. In both boys and girls, though, persistent overweight or obesity was related to poorer physical functioning after the five years. In contrast, weight loss was associated with improved quality of life during adolescence."
The questionnaire scored the children on their physical and psychosocial health as well as a combined total quality of life score. The psychosocial health summary score reflected measures of the teens' emotional, social and school functioning.
The investigators found that male and female participants who were overweight or obese at the start of the study and then reduced to a normal weight had significantly higher physical functioning scores than males and females who started out obese and remained obese after five years. These physical functioning scores measured one aspect of overall QOL.
"The findings suggest that an unhealthy weight status and excess body fat could negatively impact the mental and physical wellbeing of adolescents, particularly boys," said Gopinath. He added that the findings highlight the value of assessing quality of life among overweight or obese adolescents in both clinical practice and in research studies and that "obesity prevention and treatment efforts [ought to] to address the broad spectrum of psychosocial implications of being obese as a teenager."
Lawrence J. Cheskin, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, stated that to define and quantify the differences in QOL and physical functioning between obese and normal weight teens has not been carefully done before. "The fact that QOL improved with improvement in weight over time is also important," he said. Cheskin added that parents, health care providers and teenagers themselves need to understand the far-reaching effects that being too heavy can have on a young person's enjoyment of life.
Journal of Adolescent Health