Social Consequences of Obesity Among Canadian Youth
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Background: The prevalence of obesity is increasing in all segments of our society. While research exists on the physical consequences of obesity, the social implications of childhood obesity require study. Those who are obese are visibly different from their peers and are more likely to experience physical and verbal abuse when compared with their normal weight peers. Objectives: The objectives of the two studies comprising this thesis were to examine, 1) the temporal sequence between adiposity class and bullying involvement, and, 2) to determine whether the relationship between adiposity class and weapon carrying is mediated by bullying. Methods: Objective 1. Participants were administered the Health Behaviour in School-Age Children Survey (HBSC) in 2006 and 2007. Study outcomes were self reports of: 1) physical bullying victimization and perpetration, and 2) relational bullying victimization and perpetration. Relationships between adiposity and the four forms of bullying were investigated in separate analyses using a repeated measures design. Objective 2. A cross-sectional analysis of the health experiences of 7877 Canadian children (11-15 years) using the 2006 HBSC survey was conducted. Relationships between adiposity status and weapon carrying were evaluated using multi-level logistic regression. Mediation by bullying involvement was assessed using standard methods. Results: Objective 1. Adiposity class was shown to precede bullying involvement, with obese males reporting 2-fold increases in both physical and relational victimization, while obese females reported 3-fold increases in perpetration of relational bullying. Objective 2. Results suggest that overweight and obese males report increased odds of weapon carrying compared to their normal weight peers. Among obese males, partial mediation of this relationship was observed by acts of: physical victimization, relational victimization and physical perpetration. No such relationships were observed among female students. Conclusions: Objective 1. Our study demonstrates the importance of adiposity status as a determinant of poor interpersonal relationships. These findings are congruent with previous cross-sectional studies, and confirm that obese youths are at increased risk of social consequences attributable to their appearance. Objective 2. Overweight and obese male students appear to be more likely to carry weapons for defensive and offensive purposes, a behavior mediated in part by bullying involvement.