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Journal of Obesity
Volume 2012, Article ID 281801, 9 pages
Review Article

Mental Health, Wellness, and Childhood Overweight/Obesity

1Educational Studies in Counselling Psychology, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, EDT 318, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4
2Community Health Systems Resource Group, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, ON, Canada M5G 1X8

Received 14 February 2012; Revised 26 April 2012; Accepted 30 April 2012

Academic Editor: Devin Mann

Copyright © 2012 Shelly Russell-Mayhew et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Childhood obesity is a growing concern, and while progress has been made to understand the association between multiple biological factors (i.e., genetics, nutrition, exercise etc.), little is known about the relationship between mental health and childhood obesity. In this paper, we offer a review of current evidence about the association between mental health and childhood obesity. A systematic literature search of peer-reviewed, English-language studies published between January 2000 and January 2011 was undertaken and resulted in 759 unique records, of which 345 full-text articles were retrieved and 131 articles were included. A theoretical model is proposed to organize the paper and reflect the current state of the literature and includes psychological factors (i.e., depression and anxiety, self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, eating disordered symptoms, and emotional problems); psychosocial mediating variables (i.e., weight-based teasing and concern about weight and shape), and wellness factors (i.e., quality of life and resiliency/protective factors). We conclude with a number of recommendations to support the creation of solutions to the rise in childhood obesity rates that do not further marginalize overweight and obese children and youth and that can potentially improve the well-being of all children and youth regardless of their weight status.