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Obese kids less often demonstrate coping skills, academic interest

By Reuters - Nov 15,2018 - Last updated at Nov 17,2018

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Obese children may be less likely to meet a set of five markers for childhood flourishing that include academic and emotional skills, a new analysis of US survey data suggests. 

Those markers include completing homework, caring about academics, finishing tasks, staying calm when challenged and showing interest in learning, according to the study authors who presented their results on November 3 at the American Academy of Paediatrics annual conference in Orlando, Florida. 

“We often think of childhood obesity as a problem of the future,” the study’s lead author told Reuters Health. “Now that we know childhood obesity is linked with poor coping skills and school performance, the time to act is now. I hope parents, schools, and physicians can unite and concentrate our efforts to help these at-risk children reach their maximum potential,” Dr Natasha Gill of Brown University and Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, said by e-mail. 

The researchers analysed parent-reported data on nearly 23,000 children ages 10 to 17 who took part in the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. The researchers took family, neighbourhood and economic factors into account, as well as children’s sleep habits, digital media exposure and any diagnosis of depression. 

They found that only about 29 per cent of obese children hit all five indicators of flourishing, compared with 38 per cent of overweight kids and 41 per cent of children at a normal weight. 

Looking at each of the five markers individually, obese children were also less likely than other kids to meet all except completing homework. 

The findings may imply that obesity puts children at risk for other problems besides failing to meet the five flourishing markers. 

“Just like increased exposure to adverse childhood events has been associated with negative outcomes, new studies suggest that youth who display less positive attitudes are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours and avoid health-enhancing behaviours,” Gills said. 

 “After doing this study, I feel like I can now educate about the urgency of preventing and treating obesity because it could affect a child’s day-to-day life, their development, relationships, school performance and coping skills.” 

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