Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Obesity Puts Young Kids at Risk of Social Isolation

Study Shows Being Overweight or Obese Increases the Risk of Peer Problems in Kids by 15% to 20%
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 19, 2011 -- Obesity increases the risk that young children will become socially isolated by their grade-school years, a new study shows.

The study tracked more than 3,300 children in Australia for four years as they advanced from preschool through the early grades.

Families were recruited into the study in 2004 with a follow-up in 2008. At those times, measurements were taken of kids' heights and weights. Primary caregivers were interviewed in detail. Parents and teachers were asked to complete additional questionnaires that took stock of the children's mental health problems and their quality of life.

At 4 and 5 years of age, 13% and 16% of boys and girls, respectively, were classified by their weight and height as being overweight; about 5% of both sexes were obese.

Researchers found that kids who were obese compared to their classmates at ages 4 and 5 were up to 20% more likely to face difficulties in their peer relationships by ages 8 and 9 than normal-weight kids.

Difficulties reported by parents and teachers included teasing and rejection, trouble making friends, and not being included in social activities like birthday parties.

Those relationships remained when researchers adjusted their data to reflect the influence of other things that are known to affect social functioning, like mom's mental health and education, family income, and speaking a foreign language at home.

Researchers also saw no evidence of a chicken-and-egg phenomenon with social isolation and weight. That is, when they looked at children's mental and social functioning at ages 4 and 5, they found no evidence that kids who were showing signs of isolation or loneliness at that age were more likely than kids who were having normal social interactions with their peers to go on to become overweight or obese.

When Size Becomes a Stigma

The finding echoes previous studies in older children and adolescents that have found that those who are overweight and obese are more stigmatized, isolated, and disconnected from social networks than their normal-weight peers.

Study researcher Michael G. Sawyer, MBBS, PhD, professor and head of the Research and Evaluation Unit at the University of Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital in Australia, says in an email to WebMD that obesity may hurt children's mental health in a couple of ways.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration