Bullying has emerged as a “very big issue” from a study of children attending a hospital-based obesity treatment programme, with 63% bullied about their weight,
The finding is based on an analysis of the initial assessment forms of 111 children attending the family-based W82GO service at Temple Street Children’s University Hospital in Dublin.
It found that 12% of the children who were bullied were missing days from school. Almost half of those teased were teased by their peers, although a small percentage (2%) were teased by strangers.
Temple Street started its obesity service for children in 2004 and the following year set up the W82GO programme that is delivered by a multidisciplinary team that includes a paediatrician, dietitian, nurse, chartered physiotherapist, and clinical psychologist.
Dr Samantha Doyle, a paediatrician and a member of the W82GO team, said their analysis revealed a high proportion of emotional and behavioural problems along with bullying.
About 5% of the children were under five years of age, and the average age at initial consultation was around 10 years.
A third (33%) of the children were experiencing emotional difficulties but just under half (46%) were linked to mental health services before starting the programme.
The initial assessment also showed that 26% had behavioural difficulties, with just over half (52%) already attending a mental health service.
Almost a third (30%) of parents said their children had learning difficulties, a figure that is well above the National Council for Special Needs Education estimated prevalence rates of 23% in 2011.
It also emerged that 15% of the children needed some intervention for development delay.
While the degree of developmental delay varied, speech and autistic spectrum disorder made up a large proportion of the difficulties.
The study, published in the latest issue of the Irish Medical Journal, points out that the findings are in contrast to the data collected by The Growing Up in Ireland study, published in 2011.
It showed that most of the nine-year-old children analysed were developing without emotional problems, with 15% to 20% in difficulty.