I've written post after post after post in this blog about the health effects of childhood obesity. Thus far the epidemic has been linked to everything from type 2 diabetes to multiple sclerosis. But how does childhood obesity affect kids socially and economically? Philippa Clarke, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan, wanted to know. She also wanted to discover if there were differences in adults who had been overweight since adolescence and those who gradually gained weight after high school.
Clarke used national data that tracked 5,000 high school graduates for two decades. She compared one group of 40-year-olds who were normal weight at high school graduation but gained weight gradually over time with another group of 40-year-olds who were chronically overweight since age 19.
Clarke found that the chronically overweight were 50 percent more likely to be unemployed, on welfare and single. Clarke's study doesn't address why these factors are so much more prevalent for adults that were overweight since childhood, but she suggests that these adults probably experienced discrimination as children that diminished their self-esteem and, in turn, their aspirations.
This coincides with similar research at Yale University, which found that overweight people are 26 times more likely to report discrimination than their normal-weight counterparts. In addition, discrimination against overweight individuals has increased 66 percent over the past decade despite the fact that more adults are becoming overweight.
What do these statistics mean for our kids? It's too soon to tell, of course, but with childhood obesity rates climbing higher and higher everyday, it certainly does not bode well for the next generation.