Risk Factors And Causes Of Childhood Obesity

August 31, 2023

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since the 1970s, the obesity rate among children has more than tripled. This means almost one in every five children and adolescents in the United States alone are overweight or obese. Obesity can have a significant impact on a child’s physical and emotional health, and children who are overweight have a greater tendency to remain obese throughout adulthood. Overweight adolescents are also more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases and diabetes at a young age.

When children consume more calories from food and beverages than necessary for them to be able to function healthily, it can lead to excess weight gain over time. However, there are many different causes of childhood obesity beyond eating habits alone. Here’s more information about the most common causes of childhood obesity.

Parents Who Are Also Overweight

Children with parents who are also overweight may have an increased risk of becoming obese due to genetics or unhealthy learned behaviors. Parents who don’t eat healthy foods or get enough physical activity may be encouraging their children to repeat their patterns. While most parents have their children’s best interest at heart, they may fail to keep junk food and sugary drinks out of the home. Additionally, centering family time around the television can contribute to a child’s lack of physical activity.

A child’s body weight may also be heavily influenced by genes as well. Children with certain inherited genes may gain weight more easily, and predispositions to some medical issues can also lead to childhood obesity. While weight issues may run in some families, not every child with a history of obesity in the family will end up being overweight.

Continue reading to learn about the influence of diet.

Poor Diet

In many cases, children who are obese may eat too much and not exercise enough. When kids primarily get their calories from unhealthy, processed foods but don’t burn off the extra energy the calories provide, the energy will be converted into fat. Unhealthy food choices may include eating larger portions than necessary, drinking a lot of sugary drinks, or eating processed foods or those high in fat, such as potato chips. Additionally, eating out a lot at restaurants is considered unhealthy because most use ingredients like fat, sugar, and salt to flavor their foods.

Poor diet habits tend to run in families. The best way for parents to change their family’s eating habits is to make healthy foods like fruits and vegetables more accessible and to limit access to sugary, fatty, and processed foods. They can use family mealtime together to make it exciting for their children to eat healthy, nutrient-rich foods. A child’s eating habits may be influenced by multiple individuals, including friends, school staff, caregivers, and even the media.

Continue reading to reveal another cause of childhood obesity.

Lack Of Physical Activity

In a world centered around social media, gaming consoles, laptops, cell phones, and television, it’s unfortunately not uncommon for children to experience a lack of physical activity. A lack of exercise contributes to obesity among children, as well as a variety of obesity-related health conditions. Many negative effects are associated with a lack of exercise in children, including weakened muscle and bone development, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and increased cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

The more a child becomes less physically active, the higher the risk they will become overweight. Overweight children tend to suffer from feelings of inadequacy, shame, and poor self-esteem, which only contributes to their lack of motivation to exercise regularly. For parents who have children who don’t enjoy participating in sports or exercises, they can slowly encourage them by participating in certain activities with them. Schedule a family hike or a walk through the woods together. They can find ways to make physical activity feel more adventurous and use the opportunity to build a connection with their child.

Continue reading to reveal an incredibly prevalent cause of childhood obesity many forget about.


The right kind of boredom in a child might lead to the quest for creativity, but the wrong type may be linked to a variety of self-destructive behaviors such as obesity. Most children tend to be curious about the world around them, but in a technological-driven world where kids are used to being entertained on constantly, it’s not uncommon for feelings of being bored to surface, especially when screen time is limited.

Kids used to being entertained by movies, smartphones, and video games may struggle with the ability to use their imaginations to fuel their creative outlets, and they may often use food as a vehicle to escape being bored. Children who always complain about being bored may need their parents’ direction or ideas. In some instances, kids may be conveying they need their parents’ attention. Rather than letting their child fulfill their boredom through eating, parents can come up with some ideas about how they can engage with their child. They can ask about their favorite book or provide a small project for them to do. With healthy interaction, their child may be less likely to remedy their sense of being bored by taking a trip to the refrigerator.

Continue reading to reveal the next primary cause of childhood obesity.


The pressures of homework, getting good grades, and social interaction with peers can take its toll on a child’s sense of well-being. While these situations may be normal for most children, there are several other things children may experience that could lead to higher-than-normal stress levels. For example, children who grow up in low-income households may be more prone to becoming obese due to higher levels of anxiety. According to experts, stressors, like growing up in early-life poverty or experiencing extreme experiences in childhood such as domestic abuse, can contribute to obesity or weight problems in children as well as adults.

Exposure to pressure or anxiety during the early stages of life can have a tremendous impact on a child’s interest in physical activity, increasing their risk of becoming overweight or obese. The biological and behavioral struggles associated with anxiety could have a lifelong impact on a child’s weight, self-esteem, and overall health.

Read more about what can cause or increase the risk of childhood obesity now.

Limited Access And Resources

A child is more likely to become overweight if their family has limited access to resources. It's important to be educated about healthy eating. Children should be receiving an adequate calorie intake for their needs, and their food should have the right amount of vitamins and minerals to sustain their growth. If parents don't have access to educational resources, it's difficult to know what foods are the best to serve their child. Parents should try to educate themselves about healthy food options. Rather than shaming the child for eating or gaining weight, it's important to introduce healthy meals of acceptable caloric values.

Keep reading to uncover more risk factors for childhood obesity now.

Affordability Of Healthy Options

In many cases, the affordability of healthy options is limited. This means children from poor backgrounds are more likely to suffer from obesity and malnutrition than their peers. Fast food allows individuals to consume a large number of calories very quickly, but many fast food meals don't have good vitamin or mineral levels. If a child eats fast food for too many of their meals, they may gain weight and feel sluggish. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats can be expensive. Many parents often don't have enough money to buy a whole chicken or to stuff their fridges with green vegetables. Since vegetables are low in calories, individuals may be able to make a much heartier meal with the same amount of money if they don't use them. These barriers can all lead to childhood obesity.

Learn more about the various causes and risk factors for childhood obesity now.


Marketing is a factor that can sometimes lead to childhood obesity. Many unhealthy snack foods are geared specifically toward children. Sugary breakfast cereals with little nutritional value are often given cartoon mascots and silly commercials. The same is true of varying sugary snacks and fast food chains. Meanwhile, it's rare for healthier food options to have the same kid-friendly marketing approach. Healthy breakfast and snack foods are often marketed toward adults, especially adults who are dieting, and they don't have the same reach or appeal to children. This can lead children to prioritize unhealthy foods over healthy ones. It can also make the unhealthy options seem like a better, tastier choice.

Discover another potential risk factor for childhood obesity now.

Lunch Options At School

A large number of children and teenagers get their lunches through school. This is especially true of those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, whose parents may not be able to afford food for the entire family. Over the past few years, more attention has been brought to the unhealthy lunch options at school. Many school lunches have extremely high salt, sugar, and fat contents. Additionally, they typically don't provide the same vitamins and nutrition children need to thrive as other meals do. Multiple experts have been bringing awareness to the issue, from chefs to teachers to government officials. Studies have also indicated when schools provide healthier lunch options, their students perform better overall.

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