Growing up in a stress-filled home doubles a child's risk of becoming obese, according to a new study.
A team of researchers from Linkping University, Sweden, followed 7443 families from the birth of their babies through to when the chid was 5 or 6 years old, keeping track of family stress levels throughout that time.
The 'stressors' included family illness or accident, death, divorce, unemployment or exposure to violence. Parenting/relationship difficulties, lack of social support and worries about children’s health and development were also reported.
High stress families were those who reported stress in at least two of these areas and these were the same families that had children who were overweight or obese.
"Families can probably deal with some stress or stressors, but not with several at the same time," doctoral student Felix-Sebastian Koch said.
When stress becomes too much for the family to handle, Koch said, children are at a higher risk of developing childhood obesity.
While there are many factors involved in obesity, Koch said that "stress probably interacts with other factors to worsen the problem."
The study supports the American 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which found that mothers with high stress levels are much more likely to have overweight and obese children than mums with lower stress levels.