Objective: To describe the prevalence of severe obesity among New Zealand young people attending secondary school and the associations of severe obesity with health risk behaviors and emotional well-being.
Study design: A random sample of 9107 secondary school students in New Zealand participated in a 2007 health survey. Participants had their height and weight measured and answered an anonymous survey on multiple aspects of their health and well-being.
Results: Overall, 2.5% of students met the International Obesity Task Force definition of severe obesity. Students with severe obesity had more weight-related concerns, were more likely to have used unhealthy weight control strategies, and were more likely to experience bullying compared with healthy weight students. For example, students with severe obesity were 1.7 times more likely to have been bullied at school (95% CI 1.2-2.7) and 1.9 times more likely to vomit for weight loss (95% CI 1.1-3.3) than were healthy weight students. Indicators of emotional well-being and most health risk behaviors were similar among young people with severe obesity and a healthy weight.
Conclusions: Clinicians who work with young people with severe obesity should prioritize discussing issues of bullying and healthy weight control strategies with families and their children.