Overweight kids more likely to develop mental health issues as adults

Children who are overweight are more likely to develop mental health issues including depression and psychosis in adulthood, study warns

  • University of Cambridge researchers analysed data from 10,000 people
  • Those with high insulin levels in childhood were at higher risk for psychosis
  • Children with an increase in BMI around the onset in puberty were found to be at higher risk of developing depression – particularly in girls

Children who are overweight are more likely to develop mental health issues in young adulthood, a new study has warned.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered a link between physical changes in childhood and mental illness in adulthood.

Worryingly, their findings suggest that children with a high body mass index (BMI) are more likely to develop depression and psychosis.

The team hopes the findings could help pave the way for better preventative measures and the potential for new treatment targets.

Children who are overweight are more likely to develop mental health issues in young adulthood, a new study has warned (stock image)

KEY FINDINGS 

In the study, the team used a sample of over 10,000 people to study how insulin levels and BMI in childhood could link to mental health problems in young adulthood.

The results showed that about 75 per cent of the participants had normal insulin levels, between 15 per cent and 18 per cent had insulin levels which gradually increased over adolescence, and three per cent had high insulin levels.

Worryingly, this three per cent was found to be at higher risk of psychosis in adulthood.

Meanwhile, children with an increase in BMI around the onset in puberty were found to be at higher risk of developing depression – particularly in girls.

Surprisingly, children who had a persistently high BMI through childhood did not have a significantly increased risk of depression.

This suggests that other factors around the age of puberty could be at play, according to the team.

Dr Benjamin Perry from Cambridge’s Department of Psychiatry, and first author of the study, said: ‘The general assumption in the past has been that some people with psychosis and depression might be more likely to have a poor diet and lower levels of physical exercise, so any adverse physical health problems are a result of the mental disorder, or the treatment for it.

‘In essence, the received wisdom is that the mental disorder comes first. 

‘But we’ve found that this isn’t necessarily the case, and for some individuals, it may be the other way around, suggesting that physical health problems detectable from childhood might be risk factors for adult psychosis and depression.’

In the study, the team used a sample of over 10,000 people to study how insulin levels and BMI in childhood could link to mental health problems in young adulthood.

The results showed that about 75 per cent of the participants had normal insulin levels, between 15 per cent and 18 per cent had insulin levels which gradually increased over adolescence, and three per cent had high insulin levels.

Worryingly, this three per cent was found to be at higher risk of psychosis in adulthood.

Meanwhile, children with an increase in BMI around the onset in puberty were found to be at higher risk of developing depression – particularly in girls.

Surprisingly, children who had a persistently high BMI through childhood did not have a significantly increased risk of depression.

The researchers recommend that doctors should carry out physical assessments on young people, so that any early signs of psychosis or depression can be diagnosed and treated early (stock image)

This suggests that other factors around the age of puberty could be at play, according to the team.

Based on the findings, the researchers recommend that doctors should carry out physical assessments on young people, so that any early signs of psychosis or depression can be diagnosed and treated early.

Dr Perry added: ‘These findings are an important reminder that all young people presenting with mental health problems should be offered a full and comprehensive assessment of their physical health in tandem with their mental health.

‘Intervening early is the best way to reduce the mortality gap sadly faced by people with mental disorders like depression and psychosis.

‘The next step will be to work out exactly why persistently high insulin levels from childhood increase the risk of psychosis in adulthood, and why increases in BMI around the age of puberty increase the risk of depression in adulthood. 

‘Doing so could pave the way for better preventative measures and the potential for new treatment targets.’

DEPRESSION AFFECTS ONE-IN-TEN PEOPLE AT SOME POINT

While it is normal to feel down from time to time, people with depression may feel persistently unhappy for weeks or months on end.

Depression can affect anyone at any age and is fairly common – approximately one in ten people are likely to experience it at some point in their life. 

Depression is a genuine health condition which people cannot just ignore or ‘snap out of it’.

Symptoms and effects vary, but can include constantly feeling upset or hopeless, or losing interest in things you used to enjoy.

It can also cause physical symptoms such as problems sleeping, tiredness, having a low appetite or sex drive, and even feeling physical pain.

In extreme cases it can lead to suicidal thoughts.

Traumatic events can trigger it, and people with a family history may be more at risk.

It is important to see a doctor if you think you or someone you know has depression, as it can be managed with lifestyle changes, therapy or medication. 

Source: NHS Choices 

Source: Read Full Article