New research suggests that life is already hard for overweight kids by the time they start elementary school.
For a study in the journal Child Development, researchers set out to assess weight stigma among schoolkids in real life, rather than talk to them about hypothetical overweight or obese students. Their study included nearly 1,200 first-graders in 29 rural Oklahoma schools for which they had data on body mass index, or BMI (which is a flawed measure, but moving on), assessments of kids’ popularity from both teachers and students, and surveys of the students’ emotional health.
When they asked kids whom they liked to play with the most and the least, kids classified as obese weren’t mentioned — they were kind of meh. But the more students weighed, the worse things got for them. Children classified as severely obese were frequently considered least favorite and rarely considered most favorite. They were also teased more than kids who were classified as overweight and had more symptoms of depression than kids who were overweight or of healthy weights.
The authors said that about one in 20 kids in the United States is severely obese. And besides being awful, teasing and rejection could affect these students’ weight struggles in the long run. They might avoid playtime to reduce taunting, or eat emotionally. So this garbage needs to stop. As one of the authors said in a release: “Intervention or prevention efforts should begin early and target peer relationships.” Because teachers have so much free time to address weight bias. Perhaps everyone should stop being assholes?