OBESITY IN TEENAGERS
VulnerablePopulation and Self-Awareness Paper
Thenumber of obese children and teenagers has increased at a worryingrate in the recent past. Statistics indicates that the number ofobese children has more than doubles and the number of obeseteenagers has more than quadrupled in the last three decades. In the1980s, it was estimated that about five percent of teenagers andadolescent were obese. However, this figure has increased to overtwenty percent. When national statistics in the developed world suchas the United States and Britain are considered, the situation isworse. For example, it is estimated that over a third of teenagers inthe United States are obese. Obesity in teenagers has direct andindirect health consequences. Some of the effects of obesity includeincreased risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other lifethreatening conditions. Teenage obesity is also associated withobesity in later stages of life. The impacts of obesity onpsychological and emotional development are also critical among obeseteenagers. This is because they are likely to develop low self esteemwhich may have significant impacts on their social life, as well aseffectiveness of programs that are meant to help them deal withobesity (Ogden et al, 2014).
Inmy own view, obese individuals are faced with stereotypes and bias inthe society. They are also faced with stereotypes in the access tohealth care services. However, obese teenagers are faced with morechallenges. This is because teenagers are increasing becoming moreaware of their bodies. Many teenagers are concerned about the changestaking place in their body and how their peers comment about them.Obese teenagers are faced with more challenges since their peers aremore likely to make negative comments about their weight.Additionally, teenagers are more likely to develop social stereotypesabout their obese peers without knowing how it is likely to affectthem. As a result, they are more likely to segregate them. Othermembers of the society are also likely to tease or make offendingcomments about obese teenagers. This results into low self esteem andself image, which increases the risk of more serious psychologicalproblems.
Thephysical health impacts of obesity in children, teenagers and adultsare well documented. However, important aspects of teenage obesitythat have been occasionally ignored are the stereotypes and biasassociated with teenage obesity and their effects on emotional andpsychological health. Stereotypes and bias refers to unreasonablejudgment that is based on individual’s weight. Teenagers andchildren are more likely to be subject of bias and stereotypes.Although it is not necessarily, some members of the society believethat obese individuals are irresponsible. Thus, shame will motivatethem to lose weight and adopt health lifestyles. It is important tonote that due to the influence of the media, majority of teenagersare more inclined towards having a slim body. Obesity is undesirablesince it does not resonate with the modern life (Kopelman et al,2010).
Themost common form of stereotype and bias that affects obese teenagersis teasing by their peers. Studies indicate that over twenty fivepercent of obese teenagers are worried about being teased by theirpeers or family members. Girls are more likely to be affected bystereotypes and bias associated with teenage obesity. The emphasis onpoor diet and personal responsibility in preventing and dealing withobesity has worsened bias and stereotypes against obese teenagers.Although obese children and teenagers are not directly responsiblefor their weight, the society, especially their peers tend to blamethem. They are less likely to evaluate the possible cause of theirpeers being obese (Puhl & Heuer, 2015).
Surprisingly,this obesity bias is also evident in the health care system. This isan important impendent to the accessibility and effectiveness ofhealth care interventions among obese teenagers. Teenagers are lesslikely to seek medical health or trust health care workers if theyare treated discriminatively or receive undesirable comments fromhealth care workers. According to Washington (2011), a third ofdoctors are likely to respond negatively to obese patients. Obesityis rated together with mental illness and drug abuse by some medicalworkers and is likely to be associated with poor compliance withdoctor instructions, dishonesty, poor hygiene and hostility. This isone of the major causes of reluctance by obese adults and teenagersto seek medical help or postpone a visit to the doctor. Additionally,some studies suggest that doctors are more reluctant to give medicalhelp to obese individuals. For example, they spend less time, engagein limited discussions, do fewer interventions and are less likely toprovide preventive health services or advice. This is due to thestereotypes that obese individuals are irresponsible in relation tohealth (Washington, 2011). Washington (2011) also reports that thestereotypes are mainly as a result of the fact that many health careprofessionals are unable to distinguish between promoting selfmonitoring to deal with obesity and making obese teenagers feelguilty about their weight. This has a direct impact on the deliveryof health care services. For example, obese teenagers will shy awayfrom health care facilities. On the other hand, stereotypes and biason health care facilities can significantly affect the effectivenessof programs aimed at preventing obesity.
Myawareness about the demographics, bias and stereotypes that affectsobese teenagers is based on the case of Jenna Riley. Jenna Riley is ahealthy teenager living with her mother and brother. Although thereare no significant health complications that she has as a result ofobesity, she is faced with some social and emotional problems. Jennahas been concerned with her peers and school mater teasing herbecause of her body weight. As a result, she finds it difficult tofit in peer groups. As a result, she has fewer friends and hasresulted into low self image. The bias and stereotypes faced by Jennahave a significant impact on her relations in the simulation learningsite. A program that aims at informing her peers about the causes ofobesity and how the way they treat Jenna affects her is necessary.This will enable her peers be more accommodative and help her dealwith challenges affecting obese teenagers.
Inconclusion, based on the finding of this study, there is an urgentneed to deal with stereotypes and stigma associated with obesity.Obese adults are more mature physically and emotionally compared toobese teenagers. They are more likely to cope with the challenges ofbeing obese. However, due to the unique development stage, obeseteenagers are more likely to be affected by stereotypes and stigmaassociated with obesity. While strategies that prevent and treatobesity are necessary, the vulnerability of obese teenager and itsimpacts on delivery of health care services are more critical.
Kopelman,P. et al. (2010). Clinicalobesity in adults and children,Hoboken, NJ : Wiley-Blackwell.
OgdenC. et al (2014). “Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in theUnited States, 2011-2012”. Journalof the American Medical Association311(8):806-814.
Puhl,R. & Heuer, C. (2012). “The Stigma of Obesity: A Review andUpdate”, Obesity,17(50), 941-964.
Washington,R. L. (2011). “Childhood obesity: issues of weight bias”.PreventingChronic Disease.8(5):A94, 1-5.