Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Can Mothers’ Work Status Be Linked To Childhood Obesity?

Childhood obesity epidemic has long been a headache for most countries around the world. Obese children are likely to be fat as they become adults and they are therefore facing a higher risk of developing Type-2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke and heart disease.

Many factors can lead to childhood obesity, and one of them is mothers’ work status. Researchers from Melbourne's Murdoch Children’s Research Institute together with the University of New England and the Australian National University carried out a study to find out whether the childhood obesity epidemic was linked to mothers' increased participation in the workforce. They published their findings on March 3, 2010 in the ‘Journal of Social Science and Medicine’.

The researchers examined the weight and lifestyle of some 2,500 children when they were 4 or 5 and again when they were 6 or 7. They revealed in their report that between 18 and 20 percent of children were either obese or overweight.

According to the findings, mothers who work part-time were more likely to have healthier children than those who worked full-time or who were not working at all. These children watched less television, ate fewer snacks and were more physically active. On the other hand, mothers with full-time jobs might not have enough time to encourage physically active play or prepare home-cooked meals.

Nevertheless, the researchers cautioned public that the findings might oversimplify actual situation. For example, stay-at-home mothers might be difficult to juggle family time when there is more than one young child at home.

While the study indicated that work status indirectly contributed to children’s lifestyle, some health experts argued that these things are controllable. Whether the mothers are working, they could still control how much television their child watches and what types of snacks they can eat. Others quoted parental distress, postpartum depression and lack of social support as variable that could account for children having less-healthy lifestyles.

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