Obesity Effects

The effects of obesity extend far beyond physical weight and related health problems. Obesity side effects can include a greater risk of mental health problems and low self-esteem. Social attitudes on obesity range from avoidance to outright discrimination and bullying. For those suffering from childhood obesity, effects of this condition can last a lifetime.

Obesity Health Effects

The effects of obesity on physical health are well documented. The Stanford Hospital (2010) reports obesity causes up to 300,000 premature deaths a year in the United States alone.

Obesity health effects range from backaches and joint pain to life-threatening conditions. The following is a list of health conditions attributed to obesity. This list is by no means exhaustive; the effects of obesity on physical health are, unfortunately, many and varied.

Obesity side effects include:

  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Mobility impairment
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stroke.

Mental Health Effects of Obesity

Obesity side effects can include mental health disorders. The mental effects of obesity have not been studied as extensively as physical obesity side effects. Evidence suggests, however, that being obese negatively affects mental health.

Low self-esteem is common among the severely obese. Rates of depression and anxiety appear to be higher; a Swedish study found that severely obese people are three to four times more likely to exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression, as compared to those with a healthy weight.

Obesity Side Effects and Social Stigma

A long history of mocking and discriminating against the obese runs through many cultures. Many people assume the obese are to blame for their condition, and that obesity is a sign of low willpower, overindulgence or slovenliness.

Obese people may have fewer social and romantic relationships compared to the non-obese. College admission, careers and earning power may be negatively affected by weight, particularly for obese women. While it may not be generally acceptable to discriminate based on gender, religion or ethnicity, many people continue to ridicule, mock or even abuse the obese.

Childhood Obesity Effects

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), childhood obesity rates have tripled since the 1980s. Almost 20 percent of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 are now obese.

Childhood obesity effects include a heightened risk of early-onset hypertension and heart disease, and an increased risk of problems such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes as adults. Socially, childhood obesity effects include an increased risk of bullying and teasing. Although long-term effects of childhood obesity on self-esteem and relationships continue to be studied, obese children and teens report lower levels of self-esteem than their non-obese counterparts.


Marcus, M. (2002). Effects of obesity on the quality of life. Retrieved June 2, 2010, from http://www.endotext.org/obesity/obesity14/obesity14.htm.

Mocan, N.