Stress and obesity have often been linked with each other, and children are no exception to this. A new research has revealed that experiencing certain family stress repeatedly throughout the childhood can make kids obese by the time they turn 18 years.
The study findings suggest that female and male adolescents respond differently to stress. Poor maternal health was linked with obesity in boys by the time they turn 18, while long-term exposure to financial stress and family disruption was associated with making adolescent girls vulnerable to weight gain by the time they turn into adults.
Researchers used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, and examined three family stress points- family disruption, financial stress and maternal poor health. They applied this to data of more than 4,700 adolescents born between 1975 and 1990.
Daphne Hernandez, assistant professor at University of Houston, said, "Experiencing family stress, specifically family disruption and financial stress, repeatedly throughout childhood was associated with overweight or obesity by the time adolescent girls turned 18. Interestingly, only one chronic family stress point, maternal poor health, was related to boys becoming overweight or obese by the time they turned 18. Overall, the findings suggest that female and male adolescents respond differently to stress. By knowing the types of stressors that influence female and male adolescent weight gain, we can tailor specific social services to be included in obesity prevention programs. The findings are important particularly to school-based obesity prevention programs that currently focus on dietary intake and physical activity, which yield only short-term benefits. These programs need to take a broader approach to combating obesity by helping families experiencing these kinds of stressors find access to mental health program, financial assistance or family counseling."
The study is published in Preventive Medicine