Unhealthy weight

Consequences of unhealthy weight

The consequences of unhealthy weight in pre-school children

Unhealthy weight in early life increases children’s risk of physical, psychological and academic problems. Overweight and obese children are more likely to stay overweight into adulthood, which further increases the risk of negative health consequences.

Given the extent of the problems unhealthy weight can cause, interventions to tackle unhealthy weight are essential and can help to prevent and reduce these adverse effects.

Below are a number of (but not all) health issues associated with both childhood overweight3and underweight4:

Overweight and obesity  

The short term effects are:
  • asthma and breathing difficulties;
  • experiencing bullying which can lead to suffering from social isolation and low self-esteem;
  • poor academic achievements (children are more likely to miss days of school which can make it hard to catch up academically);
  • continence issues; and
  • movement difficulties.
The long term effects are:
  • cardiovascular (CVD) risk factors e.g. high cholesterol, high blood pressure, abnormal glucose tolerance;
  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • psychological risks e.g. depression, low self esteem;
  • musculoskeletal problems, from carrying higher levels of weight (e.g. knee, ankle and foot pain); and
  • cancer
The effects of being underweight:
  • poor school achievement (impaired cognitive function and learning deficits);
  • behavioural problems;
  • poor growth;
  • lower bone density (Increasing risk of osteoporosis);
  • less likely to be fit and active (increases cardiovascular risk); and
  • weaker immune system (increases likelihood of illnesses)


  1. Sahoo, K., Sahoo, B., Choudhury, A. K., Sofi, N. Y., Kumar, R., & Bhadoria, A. S. (2015). Childhood obesity: causes and consequences. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 4(2), 187.
  2. Martins, V. J., Toledo Florêncio, T. M., Grillo, L. P., Do Carmo P Franco, M., Martins, P. A., Clemente, A. P. G., ... & Sawaya, A. L. (2011). Long-lasting effects of undernutrition. International journal of environmental research and public health, 8(6), 1817-1846.