Consequences of unhealthy weight

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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 having overweight and having underweight in childhood:

Overweight and obesity

The short term effects

  • 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

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and associated risk factors e.g. high cholesterol, high blood pressure, abnormal glucose tolerance
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Psychological e.g. depression, low self esteem
  • Musculoskeletal problems (e.g. knee, ankle and foot pain)
  • Cancer


Underweight is often associated with undernutrition, the consequences of undernutrition can include:

  • Poor school achievement (impaired cognitive function and learning deficits)
  • Behavioural problems
  • Poor growth
  • Lower bone density (Increases risk of osteoporosis)
  • Less likely to be fit and active (increases cardiovascular risk)
  • Weaker immune system (increases likelihood of illnesses)