ATLANTA , Ga. (CBS Atlanta) – A new study found that parental stress is linked with obese children.

The study conducted from St. Michael’s Hospital found that children whose parents have high levels of stress have a body mass index (BMI) about two percent higher than those whose parents have low levels of stress.  In addition, children gained weight at a seven percent higher rate during the study period with parents whose stress is higher.

Dr. Ketan Shankardass, a social epidemiologist with the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Heath, was the lead author on the study.  He said in a press release that those figures are significant because they are happening in children whose bodies, eating and exercising habits are still developing.  Those problems could lead to serious health issues and obesity overtime, Shankardass added.

“Childhood is a time when we develop inter-connected habits related to how we deal with stress, how we eat and how active we are,” Dr. Shankardass said. “It’s a time when we might be doing irreversible damage or damage that is very hard to change later.”

The data for the study was collected during the Children’s Heath Study which is one of the largest investigations into the long-term effects of air pollution on the respiratory health of children.  Each year, the children’s BMI was calculated and their parents were giving a questionnaire to measure their perceived psychological stress.

More than half the students followed in the study were Hispanic and the effects of stress on their BMI was greater than children of other ethnic backgrounds.

Dr. Shankardass explained that parental stress could create stress for the children who cope by eating more or exercising less.  He suggested parents change their behavior when they are stressed.

The research was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.


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