Obese children in Ireland are more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems, according to a study by Temple Street Children's Hospital.


The study surveyed children who are patients in the W82Go! Service for obese children at Temple Street Children’s Hospital.


Thirty-three per cent disclosed emotional difficulties, and 46 per cent of children were linked to mental health services before starting at W82Go! It was usually the parents that disclosed this information to researchers.


The study said: “Of the emotional difficulties which the children described low mood, deliberate self-harm and low self-esteem are examples. 


“The 54 per cent who described emotional difficulties were all seen by the psychologist on the team, and in some instances, were referred on to local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services for ongoing treatment.”



It looked at 111 children aged one to 16, and revealed a higher incidence of emotional and behavioural problems within obese children and minors compared to the general child population.

One-third of parents said their children had learning difficulties. This contrasts with the ESRI’s pivotal study Growing up in Ireland, which found that 23 per cent of all children had learning difficulties.


Five per cent of children were under the age of five, and the average age was 10 years old.


The study also noted that 63 per cent of children reported being bullied.


More than half of obese children studied are being bullied by their peers. 12 per cent admitted to missing school because of bullying. 2 per cent said they had been bullied by strangers.


The study noted the complexity of obesity: “Extensive research in the area of obesity management proves that the old adage of ‘energy in = energy out’ does not represent the complexity of the issue.”



The W82Go programme was set up by Temple Street in 2005. It provides advice on nutrition, age-appropriate exercise, communication advice for parents and self-esteem.


The service has a group-outpatient setting, which isn't always suited for children with behavioural problems. Many of the families attending the service whose children have behavioural difficulties are without professional help to support them.


In the paediatric population 7 percent of Irish children aged nine are obese, and 19% are overweight. Researchers say: "In the Irish population, obesity spans all social classes and affects four out of five adults over fifty." Commenting on the prevalence of obesity, the research team said it was a problem of ‘epidemic proportions’.


It cites the cost of caring for an obese adult population as €5.4bn by 2030.