Children whose parents are under a lot of stress gain more weight than other kids, reports a study published December 6. Higher levels of parental stress result in children gaining weight quicker and having higher Body Mass Indices (BMI) than children whose parents are less stressed, according to researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada.
Researchers analyzed data on over 4,000 children between the ages of 5 and 10. This data was compared to information from questionnaires completed by parents. The BMIs of the children whose parents had high stress levels were 2 percent higher than other children. In addition, weight gain in these children was 7 percent higher than their peers. Although the numbers appear small, researchers believe they are important.
Dr. Ketan Shankardass, lead author of the study, stated that these figures are “significant because they are happening in children, whose bodies and eating and exercise habits are still developing. Plus, if that weight gain continues and is compounded over a lifetime, it could lead to serious obesity and health issues.”
Childhood obesity has a variety of causes including genetics, eating too much and lack of physical activity, according to WebMD. Obese children are at risk for serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and skin problems. Interventions should emphasize a healthy lifestyle for the whole family and not be limited to the child with a weight problem.
Researchers also observed that children of Hispanic ethnicity appeared more susceptible to parental stress. The BMIs of these children increased more than children from other ethnic backgrounds.
The Mayo Clinic and Centers for Disease Control have information on stress and tips for stress reduction. The video which accompanies this article has tips for preventing childhood obesity. More information on childhood obesity is available from the World Health Organization and the American Heart Association.
The study, “Parental stress increases body mass index trajectory in pre-adolescents,” is published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.