Long-Term Effects of Adolescent Obesity

Introduction

This paper discusses the long-term effects that are associated with adolescent obesity. There have been alarming rates of adolescent that have been witnessed all over the world up-to the present. The situation has been termed as alarming because of the psychosocial and physical consequences that obesity associates with. It is, especially essential to note that cases of adolescent obesity have been witnessed to be on an increase in the United States and this is associated with several significant implications for individual and societal health and wellbeing. Many researchers including Davis and Carpenter (2009) claim that mostly children and adolescents are at a higher level of predisposition to psychosocial and physical challenges or problems that result from being overweight. Obesity falls in the category of the few conditions that a layperson can diagnose from a distance with much ease just like a health expert would. It should; however, be clear that distinguishing between abnormal and normal fatness can present a lot of difficulties. The moment diagnosis of obesity has been conducted, it is essential to recognize the small percentage of obese adolescent who may be having specific pathology or syndromes underlying their obesity. According to the findings of Davis and Carpenter (2009), the majority of obese adolescents belong to the category of those people whose obese conditions do not relate underlying medical cause. This means that most adolescents suffer from non-pathological, exogenous or simple obesity.

Adolescence is an essential period during which an individual requires establishing behaviors that are healthy. Most of the habits that an individual forms during this crucial stage of development usually last into adulthood. Even though researchers have not yet developed adequate literature about obesity because of its complexity, it is vital that they address the already discovered factors that lead to increasing cases of obesity in adolescents so that policy makers can assist in ensuring a productive and healthy adulthood for adolescents Raj and Kumar (2010). It is and worth noting that poor nutrition and obesity combined with emotional problems, mental health disorders, reproductive health problems, substance use, unintentional injury and violence comprise an aspect of a multifaceted web of potential problems to the physical, emotional, healthy development of adults. Considering the increasingly alarming obesity rates in the United States and other parts of the world, and the growing psychological, physical and health concerns as well as obese adolescents, it is essential to examine the long-term effect of obesity on emotional, psychological and physical development of adolescents. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the long-term effects of adolescent obesity.

Literature Review

Relevant Scholarship

The existing research that has already been published about the topic ’long-term effects of adolescent obese’ either supports the fact that adolescent obesity is associated with physical and/or psychological implications to the victims as indicated by Raj and Kumar (2010), and Davis and Carpenter (2009) or indicates lack of correlation between obesity and physical and/or psychological effects as indicated through the findings of Barlovic (2006), and Daniels (2009). This literature review will consider obesity as epidemic in terms of its long-term effects on the health of adolescents, the impact it has on self-esteem, the impact it has on depression among adolescents, peer victimization, the risk obese adolescents may face including committing suicide, and the long-term effects adolescents obesity can have on a number of psychosocial outcomes.

Definition of obesity and its measurement

According to the findings of Daniels (2009), the different measurements and the inconsistent definitions that most scholars use in defining and measuring obesity constitute one of the major difficulties when it comes to consideration of obesity. Some researchers such as Raj and Kumar (2010), and Davis and Carpenter (2009) claim that adipose tissue or excess body fat is the correct definition of obesity. In considering the amount of fat that qualifies being rated as obese, Daniels (2009) found that 20-25% of fat in the bodies of male children and adolescents qualified consideration as obese while 30% of fat in the bodies of female children and adolescents qualify consideration as obese. According to other researchers such as Barlovic (2006), and Daniels (2009), obesity is a disorder that leads to the body accumulating high level of fats that can lead to increased risk of health challenges. Despite the fact that there are structured definitions for explaining obesity, most scholars consider the necessity of defining obesity in terms of the way it requires being measured.

Obesity as an Epidemic

The existing research indicates that obesity is a serious lifestyle epidemic that continues sweeping a lot of children and adolescents, especially in the United States and other parts of the world. It is because of this epidemic level that health experts and policymakers have started considering obesity and overweight as an issue of public health in United States (Barlovic, 2006). The current statistics indicate that 16% of children and adolescents in the United States alone are obese. It is, also, worth noting that more than 60% of adolescents who have obesity issues usually carry it into their adulthood. This makes such an affected group of adolescent to experience the long-term adverse effects of obesity throughout the major part of their lives. This mainly has become the reason for increased concerns on the part of the parents, physicians and researchers about the long-term effects of adolescent obesity. These increased concerns follow the realization that adolescent obesity is most likely to lead to conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, heart disease, premature death dyslipidemia, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes that can lead to renal, ophthalmic and cardiac complications (Barlovic, 2006). Furthermore, obese adolescents may run the risk of lacking sufficient iron in their bodies as compared to their peers who could be having normal weight. It is worth noting that cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and asthma are some of the major health risks that adolescent obesity could result into. The findings of Daniels (2009) indicate that iron deficiency due to obesity results into learning and behavioral challenges among obese adolescents. Besides, the same research indicates that adolescent obesity increases the risk of slipped capital femoral epiphysis, steatohepatitis, pseudo tumor cerebri, polycystic ovary syndrome, cholethiasis, Blount’s disease and early chronic degenerative joint disease (Daniels, 2009).

The most common long-term effects of adolescent obesity are psychosocial. In most cases, adolescents who are obese become targets of systematic discrimination by their peers who have normal weight. Discrimination effects become more insidious and culture-bound as obese adolescents become mature. A significant sequel of cultural preoccupation in regard to thinness and widespread discrimination become highly expressed during childhood and adolescent stages. This way, the concern becomes a cultural aspect that is visibly pronounced, especially among female gymnasts and dancers. Studies conducted by Raj and Kumar (2010), and Davis and Carpenter (2009) indicate that, the moment adolescents become sensitized to obesity, they start incorporating cultural preferences for thinness. Prevalence of adolescent obesity leads to increased cases of victimization among adolescents on the basis of weight issues. Davis and Carpenter (2009) found that victimization had more negative implications on the perception on the issue of physical appearance and this could easily lead to changes in body mass and depression.

Adolescent Obesity and Depression Symptoms

There have been several psychological implications that have been researched about adolescent obesity; however, the most prevalent issue that has captured the attention of many researchers is the effect of adolescent obesity on depression symptoms. According to the findings of Reilly and Kelly (2011), obese adolescents tend to be isolated by their peers on the basis of body mass or physical appearance. Obese adolescents usually interact with fewer friends and experience a lot of isolations in relationships leading to increased symptoms of depression. Research has shown that depression is one of the most prevalent mental health problems among adolescents. It is, however, significant to consider that different researchers have come up with different findings regarding the way adolescent obesity relates to depression symptoms implying that there is need for further exploration on the same. Further research as asserted by Reilly and Kelly (2011) could provide more comprehensive findings regarding the effects of long-term obesity on depression symptoms, particularly among obese adolescent females because research indicates that they are more predisposed to depression than their male counterparts.

Long-term Effects of Adolescent Obesity on Physical Health

Obesity has been seen to increase the frequency of health related problems among the adolescents. According to the findings of Tirosh and Shai (2011), type 2 diabetes, hardening of arteries, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary disorder, disordered breathing while asleep, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are some of the most common obesity-related health problems among adolescents. For instance, adolescent obesity accelerates the development of heart problems implying that too much weight can interfere with the cardiovascular system. As far as heart problem is concerned, the process can take as long as more than two decades to develop into stroke or heart attack as a result of adolescent obesity. Other findings by Reilly and Kelly (2011) indicate that similar generalization are applicable to other disorders that relate to obesity such as psychosocial, skeletal, respiratory, digestive and metabolic issues. The findings further indicate that some adolescents experience immediate negative effects of obesity on their health while other adolescents experience long-term effects of conditions related to obesity. Therefore, even if obesity-related disorders do not appear early enough during adolescence, adolescent obesity increases the risk of development of health complications during adulthood. Therefore, due to increasing cases of overweight and adolescent obesity, the young people of today are likely to lead, on average, less healthy lives and even may live shorter lives compared to their parents.

Research has, also, found that adolescents whose Body Mass Index has been found to be above the 90th percentile are more likely to suffer from the risk of high blood pressure, which, in turn increases the risk of suffering from stroke or heart attack. Tirosh and Shai (2011) found that risk of high blood pressure falls in the range that is between 2.5 and 3.7 times for adolescents who are obese. Therefore, if adolescent obesity continues into adulthood, then the affected adolescents are likely to have an elevated blood pressure as compared to their peers who have normal weight. High blood pressure is a higher risk health condition because the research findings of Reilly and Kelly (2011) have found it to relate to atherosclerosis and left ventricular hypertrophy. It is worth noting that left ventricular hypertrophy is an alternative pathway that can enhance the capacity of adolescent obesity to increase risks of cardiovascular disorders in the future, especially during adulthood. Besides, it has, also been shown that atherosclerosis, which implies the process by which arteries harden, is a vital process for development of cardiovascular disease, a risk, which obese adolescents are more likely to suffer. The findings of Tirosh and Shai (2011), also, confirm that obese adolescents are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disorder. While studying obese adolescents, Reilly and Kelly (2011) found that one third of obese adolescent participants showed symptoms of cardiovascular risk factors like hypertension and dyslipidemia.

Other problems that result from long-term effects of adolescent obesity are metabolic disorders (Tirosh & Shai, 2011). Metabolic syndrome as asserted by Tirosh and Shai (2011) includes a number of risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, increased waist circumference, increased triglyceride raised levels of blood sugar, and reduced HDL cholesterol concentrations have been found to have a prevalence rate of 30% among obese adolescents and have high likelihood of leading to cardiovascular disease. According to the findings of Tirosh and Shai (2011), metabolic syndrome can be defined as a grouping of risk factors like insulin resistance, obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and glucose intolerance.

Prevention of Adolescent Obesity

According to the findings of Daniels (2009), the following are some of the choices that policy makers should embrace in order to combat adolescent obesity and decrease its prevalence and impact:

  • Implementation and enforcement of regulations regarding nutritional information so that adolescents and parents can make healthy options.
  • Accessibility to affordable foods that are healthy should be increased. Therefore, reductions in the prices of healthy foods can influence people to increase their consumption of them.
  • Ensuring that children do not get exposed to food marketing. This is an effective approach for policy makers to ensure that adolescents make the right choices about food when time comes.
  • The quality of school food programs should be improved and safeguarded.
  • Sensitizing children and adolescents to embrace physical activities so that they can decrease the risk of obesity.

Future Research

There are several areas about adolescent obesity that remain untouched and need further research in order to increase comprehension of the subject. For instance, it is not yet clear whether morbidities associated with obesity vary according to severity of obesity, age of onset, factors that influence its onset, or its duration. Second, there are not yet long-term studies to show that reduction of weight after adolescence can decrease adult morbidity. Most researches have, also, shown inadequate evaluation of the independent effects that visceral fat may have on cardiovascular risk.

Conclusion

This paper discussed the long-term effects that are associated with adolescent obesity. There have been alarming rates of adolescent that have been witnessed all over the world up-to the present. Adolescence is an essential period during which an individual requires establishing behaviors that are healthy. Most of the habits that an individual forms during this crucial stage of development usually last into adulthood. The existing research indicates that obesity is a serious lifestyle epidemic that continues sweeping a lot of children and adolescents, especially in the United States and other parts of the world. Adolescent obesity, most likely, leads to conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, heart disease, premature death dyslipidemia, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes that can lead to renal, ophthalmic and cardiac complications (Daniels, 2009). Obesity has been seen to increase the frequency of health related problems among the adolescents. According to the findings of Tirosh and Shai (2011), type 2 diabetes, hardening of arteries, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary disorder, disordered breathing while asleep, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are some of the most common obesity-related health problems among adolescents.

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