Parental divorce can increase the risk of obesity in children, particularly boys, a new study from Norway says.
Countless studies analysing hidden risk of an unhealthy family environment have linked parental conflicts and divorce to a series of health problems in children including stroke, diabetes, heart diseases, behavioural problems and risky habits like smoking. However, this is the first study to see a direct link between parental divorce and weight gain in children.
Findings of the study were based on 3,000 school students, aged around eight, studying in 127 schools in Norway, who were enrolled in the national 2010 Norwegian Child Growth Study. During the study, school nurses recorded height, weight and waist circumference of the participants. Based on the International Obesity Task Force standards, researchers calculated prevalence of overweight among the children and abdominal obesity.
Researchers also collected information about parents, particularly marital status, educational qualification of mother, ethnicity and place of living.
Of the total, about 19 percent of the children were overweight or obese and 8.9 percent were abdominally obese. However, prevalence of obesity was higher among children from divorced families. Parental divorce was associated with 54 percent increased risk of obesity or overweight and 89 percent increased risk of having an abdominal obesity. Researchers found similar results associated with children of unmarried couple, compared to children whose parents were married.
Additionally, researchers found parental divorce leaving more impact on boys than girls. Boys with divorced parents were found at higher risk of obesity (63 percent) and abdominal obesity (104 percent) than boys of married couple.
"General and abdominal obesities were more prevalent among children of divorced parents," the researchers wrote, while concluding their study. This study provides valuable information by focusing on societal changes in order to identify vulnerable groups."
Replacing homemade foods for unhealthy ready meals, a trend more prevalent in divorced families, may be leading to this occurrence, according to the researchers. Apart from that, stress related to parental divorce and its impact on parent child-relationship, changing home and new social connections also play a huge role.
Divorce rates in India are relatively lower than other countries in the world. Only one in 100 married couple in India opt for divorce compared to countries like Sweden and the US, a 2012 report shows. A 2010 United Nations Demographic Yearbook report listed Russia as the country with highest rates of divorces in the world. According to the report, the country has 5 divorces per 1000 people.