Parental stress linked to obesity in children
Stress levels among parents may affect their children’s risk of weight gain and obesity, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.
The research is the first of its kind to link parental stress and weight gain in young children. In the study, researchers gave parents questionnaires to measure their psychological stress and gauge whether and to what degree they felt in control. Their children’s body mass index (BMI) was calculated annually.
The findings showed that parents who reported higher stress levels had children who gained weight at a 7 percent higher rate than children with less-stressed parents. Researchers said that this number is significant because if the weight gain continues at this rate throughout a lifetime, serious health issues and obesity may develop.
The cause for a link between parental stress and weight gain in children is unknown. It may be that when parents become stressed, they may increase the amount of unhealthy food in the household or reduce the amount of the family’s physical activity, researchers said. They also suggested that parental stress may cause children to feel stressed, which may lead to unhealthy behavior and biological changes that cause weight gain.