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hour of physical activity or more per day


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What are the complications of childhood obesity?

As a result of obesity it is possible that for the first time in history our children may have a shorter lifespan than their parents

Childhood overweight and obesity has both immediate and long-term health outcomes. Increasingly, obese children are being diagnosed with a range of health conditions previously seen almost exclusively among adults. Childhood unhealthy weights may result in serious medical problems in childhood such as:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol
  • liver disease
  • bone and joint problems
  • respiratory problems such as asthma
  • sleep disorders such as difficulty breathing while asleep (sleep apnea)
  • earlier than normal puberty or menstruation
  • eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
  • skin infections due to moisture from sweat being trapped in skin folds
  • fatigue

Overweight or obesity in childhood can also result in serious psychological difficulties. Overweight or obese children:

  • are more likely to be teased and bullied
  • are more likely to bully others
  • may have poor self-esteem and may feel socially isolated
  • may be at increased risk for depression
  • may have poorer social skills
  • may have high stress and anxiety
  • may have behaviour and/or learning problems as a result of psychological difficulties related to childhood obesity

Unfortunately most obese children and youth do not outgrow their weight problem. In fact, most people continue to gain weight as they age. Obesity in adulthood leads to

  • high blood pressure
  • strokes
  • certain types of cancer (endometrial, breast and colon among others)
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • dementia

There will also be an increase in health care costs, and a high risk of lost productivity in the Canadian economy as a result of an anticipated greater level of absenteeism and weight-related illnesses among Canada’s aging and more obese workforce.

An adult who is obese at age 40 years can expect to die 3-6 years earlier than someone who was of normal weight at the same age. The loss of years is the same as if that person had been a smoker. It is essential that families do all they can to prevent obesity in children and to have it treated it should it occur.

Last updated December, 2019

References and Additional Resources:

Expert Panel on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight in Adults. (1998). Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: executive summary.

Public Health Agency of Canada (2012). Curbing Childhood Obesity: A Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights.

Singh A.S., Mulder C., Twisk J.W., et al. (2008). Tracking of childhood overweight into adulthood: a systematic review of the literature

White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President (2010). Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity within a Generation.

World Health Organization (2015). Facts and Figures on Childhood Obesity.