Children from broken homes 'more likely to become obese'
Published 05/06/2014 | 02:30
Children whose parents have divorced are more likely to be obese, new research suggests.
Boys are especially prone to having excess weight, the study found.
Youngsters whose parents were divorced were 54pc more likely to be overweight or obese than children whose parents were married, according to the research published in the journal 'BMJ Open'.
And boys from split homes were found to be 63pc more likely to be overweight or obese compared to boys whose parents were still married.
The researchers said that the possible explanations for the link could be a lower household income, an over-reliance on unhealthy convenience foods and less time spent on domestic tasks such as cooking. The emotional fall-out of a divorce could also explain the findings, they said.
The research was conducted on 3,166 eight-year-old pupils across 127 primary schools in Norway.
The children were measured for their weight, height and waist circumference and it was noted whether or not their parents were divorced.
The authors of the 'Norwegian Child Growth Study' found that overall around one in five children were overweight or obese, according to internationally accepted definitions.
"In this nationally representative study we found that general overweight and obesity, and abdominal obesity were more prevalent among children of divorced parents compared with children of married parents," the authors wrote. However, the researchers said the study does not provide a basis for establishing cause and effect, but they did offer a few speculations for the link.
They wrote: "One can only speculate whether the changing structure of daily life has a large effect on the children of divorced parents (living with only one parent or spending half their time with the mother and/or the father).
"The loss of various resources, like the absence of one of the parents or the loss of a parental figure, usually the father, can explain the negative implications of a divorce.
"A consequence might be less time for domestic tasks such as cooking and reliance on more convenient, ready-to-eat foods.
"As processed foods tend to be higher in fat and lower in nutritional value the result is an altered, less healthy diet."
"The household income and support from any non-custodial parent or the welfare state is often lower than in corresponding non-disrupted families. Consequently, fewer economic resources may be available for divorced parents, which might lead to cheaper and less healthy choices."