Kids with Working Mothers More Apt to be Overweight

Childhood obesity is driven by many factors and now researchers have added a new one to the list: whether mom has a job.

Children who have working mothers are more likely to be overweight, new research shows.

A recent study from University College London analyzed the weights of more than 8,500 seven-year-olds in 1965 then repeated the study with 1,889 of their four to nine-year-old children in 1991. According to their findings, 12 percent of boys and eight percent of girls had weight problems in the first analysis; however, the figures doubled for the children 30 years later.

In the Sixties, children with working mothers also were 28 percent more likely to be overweight than children who had mothers that stayed at home, the study showed. In the 1990s, children with working mothers had a 48 percent jump in their risk of obesity.

Mothers who hold full time jobs have less time to prepare nutritious meals, speculate researchers, and the children also spend more time home alone, where they snack on unhealthy foods and watch television instead of playing outside. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that the inception of fast food culture over the past 45 years has led children to pack on excess pounds.

Researcher Dr. Leah Li said the trend of kids getting increasingly fatter will keep getting worse if nothing changes, noting, “The high prevalence of child obesity is likely to result in further increases in adult obesity and associated health consequences.”

Whether maternal employment is the only cause of higher childhood BMI for the second study cohort is not clear, and many other unmeasured factors could be having an effect too. Still, Dr. Li notes that implementing public policies geared toward supporting working moms and less advantaged families can help to reverse the obesity trend.

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