Obese youngsters are missing school due to the misery of bullying
Six in 10 obese children are victims of bullying and many are missing days from school as a result.
More than one-in-three children referred to the obesity service in Temple St Hospital in Dublin had emotional difficulties, a new study has revealed.
They suffered low mood, lack of self-esteem and were involved in deliberate self-harm.
This makes treating their weight issues more complex, the research led by Dr Samantha Doyle, lecturer in paediatrics in Temple St Hospital, said.
"Bullying represents a very big issue within our group," the study said.
"The social stigma attached to obesity clearly plays a big role and this is a barrier to treating obesity," the findings in the 'Irish Medical Journal' revealed.
As many as 12pc of the group of 111 children were missing days from school due to bullying.
Half of those who were teased were targeted by their peers, but in some cases it was strangers who harassed them.
The children with emotional difficulties who were at the start of treatment at the hospital's W82GO service were seen by the psychologist in the team.
In some instances they were sent to the child and adolescent mental health services for ongoing treatment.
The incidence of learning difficulties, as reported by parents, was 30pc.
Commenting on the prevalence of obesity, the research team said it was a problem of "epidemic proportions".
It spans all social classes and at age nine some 7pc of children are obese and 19pc overweight. "Overweight children are at significantly increased risk of becoming obese adults," it said.
It also said the retrospective review highlights the difficulties faced in treating these children as they have psychological difficulties which can affect their progress and make them a more demanding group of patients.
All professionals working with obese children must consider the psychological difficulties they have and the impact it has on their treatment.
"Left untreated, the health consequences of obesity are severe - therefore a multi-disciplinary team approach is needed," it said.
The treatment offered by the hospital is a group outpatient family-based lifestyle programme.
This is not always suitable as some children have problems with a group setting.
Many of the families attending the service whose children have behavioural difficulties are without professional help to support them.