Obesity impacts a child’s quality of life in numerous ways. Aside from the psychological effects and the health and medical hassles that children must contend with, there are a few other ways being overweight or obese can lower a child’s quality of life.

How obesity limits a child’s experiences
As a Nutrisystem commerical in 2011, notes, “Everything is so much easier when you weigh less.” Try tying a few pounds of weight all over your body and lugging them around for a day to get an idea about how true this statement can be. Weight and inactivity issues will affect mobility and often prevent children from doing basic things, such as learning to swim or ride a bike. (Kotz, 2009) It’s not necessarily that it’s physically impossible, simply much harder, and this difficulty, along with fear of teasing by peers, keeps them away from many basic childhood activities and enriching experiences.

“Nick,” a boy going into fifth grade, was barely tall enough to ride a roller coaster ride at most amusement parks. Yet he was already 135 pounds and climbing. “He was terrified of gym,” his principal says. “There was trouble running, trouble breathing – the kid had it all.” (Cohen, 2013, p. 82) Nick is indicative of the general challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of kids across America. “As a 40-year-old middle school teacher and coach, I can outrun 90 percent of my athletes in their conditioning drills,” writes Tyler Smurr in a letter to Outside Magazine. (June 2010, p. 18)

Not surprisingly, studies find that less active individuals report significantly more physical complaints when exercising, with the most common complaint being exhaustion. (Kirkcaldy, Shephard & Siefen, 2002) This inability to perform basic physical tasks comfortably limits them in all kinds of ways. Being overweight and obese also causes children to miss more days of school. (Hammond & Levine, 2010)

Obesity and sexual problems
Being overweight or obese also raises the likelihood of future sexual problems. Sexual dysfunction can arise because excess fat cells release inflammatory chemicals that can damage nerves and blood vessels in the penis and clitoris, resulting in both sexual dysfunction and a decreased ability to enjoy sex. (Gorman, 2012)

Other research has found that obese women are 30% less likely than normal weight women to have had a sexual partner in the last year, suggesting that overweight people find it harder to attract mates. (Chang, 6-16-2010) “This is not a heart attack or a stroke,” says Dr. Andrew McCallough, an associate professor of urology at New York University School of Medicine and director of male sexual health at NYO’s Langone Medical Center. “But it’s an important quality of life factor and a public health problem.” (ibid) Though sexual issues are commonly dismissed as trivial, to put things in perspective, the mood neurotransmitters released by intimate touching and/or sexual contact result in more of a positive change in the brain than do any type of antidepressants or psychiatric drugs. In fact, if everyone in America were being touched, cuddled, held, and intimately loved on a more regular basis, this alone could almost completely wipe out the depression and anxiety that plagues this country.

The economic toll
Being overweight is expensive. Every 10% point increase in overweight/obesity rates reduces average M.P.G. of new vehicles sold by approximately 2.5%. (Hammond & Levine, 2010) Obese people spend a third more than fit people on health services, and 75% more on medications than healthy citizens do. Over the course of a lifetime, this difference if saved could amount to around $700,000 by retirement age. (Kadlec, 9-22-2008) The time spent on doctor’s visits, as well as the economic loss created by obesity-related illness, can balloon this deficit even further.

In another study, researchers at George Washington University found the average annual cost of being obese is $4,879 for a woman and $2, 646 for a man. For people who are just overweight, it’s $524 for a woman, $432 for a man. After averaging in the economic value of lost life (from obesity-related death), this annual cost improved to $8,365 for women, $6, 518 for men. (USA Today, 9-22-2010) Another study found that each one-unit increase in BMI translates to a 1.9% increase in median medical spending, and that “relative medical spending for the obese may be as much as 100% higher than for healthy weight adults.” (Hammond & Levine, 2010) One way or another, being overweight or obese puts a financial burden on a person that further diminishes their quality of life.

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