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Swedish researchers analyzed data from the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden and found that young men who were obese as teens earned up to 18 percent less a year than those who were of normal weight during their teen years.
This income gap wasn't seen among men who gained excess weight later in life, according to the study published recently in the journal Demography.
The study authors said obese teens can have poorer mental and social skills than normal-weight teens, and this may be due to bullying, lower self-esteem and discrimination.
However, the study only detected a link between weight during teen years for boys and income later in life; it did not prove cause-and-effect.
Previous research has found that obese young women may have lower incomes than those who aren't obese, the researchers said.
"Our results suggest that the rapid increase in childhood and adolescent obesity could have long-lasting effects on the economic growth and productivity of nations. We believe that the rationale for government intervention for these age groups is strong because children and adolescents are arguably less able to take future consequences of their actions into account," study author Paul Nystedt, of Jonkoping University in Sweden, said in a journal news release.
"These results reinforce the importance of policy combating early life obesity in order to reduce health care expenditures as well as poverty and inequalities later in life," he added.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Demography, news release, Sept. 23, 2014