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Overweight teens feel stigmatized, bullied

THURSDAY, May 1, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new British study finds that overweight teens are likely to feel stigmatized, isolated and even bullied for their size.

"The perspectives of young people in the U.K., when synthesized across the spectrum of body sizes, paint a picture of a stigmatizing and abusive social world," researchers from the Institute of Education at the University of London wrote.

According to the study, about 20 percent of kids aged 11 to 15 are considered to be obese in the United Kingdom. Researchers found 30 studies that surveyed teens in the United Kingdom (aged 12 to 18) about weight issues. More than 1,400 children -- of all body sizes -- answered the surveys between 1997 and 2010.

Overall, the survey participants felt the social problems caused by excess weight were a bigger deal than health problems. Those surveyed tended to believe that people are responsible for their weight; some respondents linked excess weight to laziness, greed and lack of control, along with a lower level of attractiveness.

Teens who were the most overweight said they'd been bullied and even physically assaulted. Some felt ashamed and humiliated, and said that participating in more healthful activities such as exercising were harder because of the ridicule. The overweight children also had difficulty exercising due to physical problems, such as asthma.

When asked what might help them lose weight, overweight participants responded that support and encouragement from family and friends, and less judgmental responses from health professionals, were important.

The study was published online on April 30 in BMJ Open.

"Approaches that merely educate and admonish individuals about lifestyles and being overweight are not only insufficient but also potentially counterproductive," the study authors said in a journal news release.

In the United States, an estimated one-third of children and teens aged 6 to 19 are considered to be overweight or obese.

More information

Learn more about healthy eating habits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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