Obesity increases the risk that young children will become socially isolated by their grade-school years, a new study shows.
The study tracked more than 3,300 children in Australia for four years as they advanced from preschool through the early grades.
Families were recruited into the study in 2004 with a follow-up in 2008. At those times, measurements were taken of kids' heights and weights.
Primary caregivers were interviewed in detail. Parents and teachers were asked to complete additional questionnaires that took stock of the children's mental health problems and their quality of life. At 4 and 5 years of age, 13% and 16% of boys and girls, respectively, were classified by their weight and height as being overweight; about 5% of both sexes were obese. Researchers found that kids who were obese compared to their classmates at ages 4 and 5 were up to 20% more likely to face difficulties in their peer relationships by ages 8 and 9 than normal-weight kids.
Difficulties reported by parents and teachers included teasing and rejection, trouble making friends, and not being included in social activities like birthday parties.
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