Almost 1 in 16 children are morbidly obese in the United States. These children all have a greater risk of many illnesses, self-harm and premature death.
“Obesity during childhood and adolescence is associated with a wide range of illnesses, negative social consequences, and poor academic performance,” the American Journal of Preventive Medicine said.
The national obesity rate among ages 2 to 19 rose from 19.3% in 2019 to 22.4% in 2020, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The national average for youths who are morbidly obese (those who are 100 pounds over their recommended weight) is 6.1%. These averages, according to the preventive medicine journal, will only increase at an accelerating rate, if nothing substantial is done.
According to a Harvard University study, consuming healthier foods and drinks, limiting unhealthy foods, exercising and limiting “sit time” should begin to lower obesity rates. Schools promoting healthier lifestyles and diets among their students could lower the obesity rate among school youth, the study said.
Connecticut is ranked 26th in the U.S. for the highest obesity rate among youth. According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Connecticut’s childhood obesity rate is expected to continue rising.
For some young people, obesity can translate into low self-esteem.
“I didn’t like myself anymore,” Neema Jackson, a 16-year-old Hamden resident, said. “It was so noticeable, and I just didn’t ever like the way I looked.”
Jackson had been overweight from the age of 12 to 15. She began to lose weight and has begun to like herself again.
“My brother was also starting to lose weight, so he started to put me on a calorie diet, and I started to go to the gym,” Jackson said.
The preventive medicine journal reports that by the year 2030, 51% of the national child and adult population will be obese or severely obese. Reducing these estimates to levels seen in 2010 would save $549.5 billion in medical expenses, the journal said. Since youths who are severely obese have a higher risk of premature deaths, it could also save lives.
“Childhood and adolescents with obesity have a higher likelihood of remaining obese long term, which is termed entrenched obesity, elevating the risk of chronic disease and mortality,” the journal said.
Obesity is classified as an epidemic in the U.S. by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and rates are rising for children and adults. If nothing is done to mitigate the growth of this chronic disease, then billions of dollars will be spent on health care and millions of children will be at a higher risk of dying young.
Avery Santos is a student at Middletown High School.