Psychosocial consequences of weight screening of school-age children – a systematic review

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INTRODUCTION. Weight-screening children in schools is an ingrained part of preventive health programmes worldwide. Even though there is no evidence that weight monitoring in the context of preventive health work prevents weight gain, evidence indicates that a focus on weight among children may negatively impact mental health. We aimed to review the existing literature on potential psychosocial consequences of routine weighing and weight feedback in school-aged children. METHODS. A comprehensive search was performed in four databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, Sociological Abstracts and CINAHL) and included all original studies investigating psychological or social consequences of routine weighing or weight feedback in school-aged children. Data extracted from all included studies were coded thematically and summarised considering the nature of the effect on psychosocial outcomes. RESULTS. Six studies were included in this review. They were heterogeneous regarding aim and study design. Negative consequences included decreased weight satisfaction, increased weight focus and frequency of peer weight talk, over sensitisation about weight and emotional distress and discomfort. CONCLUSIONS. The literature in the field was sparse and heterogeneous. Even so, the literature indicated that routine weighing and weight feedback resulted in harmful psychosocial consequences for some children. Unfavourable effects primarily seemed to affect children with a high BMI, whereas children categorised as normal weight seemed to have mainly positive or neutral experiences.

TidsskriftDanish Medical Journal
Udgave nummer11
StatusUdgivet - 1 nov. 2023

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