Children as young as six years old worry about their body image, new analysis suggests.
The research by Leeds Beckett University looks at the link between obesity and psychopathology, the study of mental health disorders.
And academics have found that while youngsters are concerned about body image, children as young as three-years-old are stigmatised because of their weight.
The research – The vital links between obesity and psychopathology: The impact of stigma – was led by Dr Stuart Flint, a senior research fellow at the university.
It also studied how stigma and discrimination can increase the chances of people suffering from mental health issues in life, like stress or anxiety.
The research comes as the YEP is calling on people across Leeds to help break down stigma surrounding mental health issues as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign.
“The research indicates that a whole systems approach that is holistic in nature, and considers the factors identified as contributing to obesity, is needed,” Dr Flint said.
“There is proof that interventions that are discipline specific are redundant and are unlikely to lead to long-term weight loss.
“Delivering non-stigmatising supportive healthcare is of paramount importance because stigma has the potential to reduce the effectiveness of interventions at all levels.”
As a result of the research findings, healthcare professionals are being urged to take into account the link between obesity and mental health problems when it comes to assessments, treatment and prevention of obesity.
Dr Flint, a psychologist with a specific interest in the psychological effects of obesity, said: “The importance of stigma and associated discrimination cannot be overestimated given reports that weight and mental health stigma may lead to poorer body image, low self-esteem, marginalisation leading to social exclusion, reduced quality of life, substance abuse and in some cases self-harming and suicide.
“Obese people who have psychopathological concerns are at an increased risk of associated diseases and premature death.”
Dr Flint said eating behaviour and physical inactivity are often associated with depression and mood state. He added: “Research shows that there is now a strong foundation to promote exercise and healthy food and drink as medicine and there are calls for doctors to promote and where appropriate prescribe exercise to treat physical and mental health concerns.”
For more information about mental health visit www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk
YEP CAMPAIGN TACKLING STIGMA
THE YEP launched our #SpeakYourMind campaign in October last year.
We called on people and businesses across Leeds to help combat stigma surrounding mental health.
Our campaign was officially launched at the Leeds Leads:
Healthy Minds for a Thriving City event for business leaders in the city, of which the YEP was a partner.
We want to raise awareness of mental health issues in Leeds. To share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org