Distressed Mothers Linked to Child Obesity
Researchers have found an association between psychological distress in mothers and obesity in their children. A team from Liverpool University, UK, examined the link using figures from the Millennium Cohort Study, which included nearly 19,000 babies born in the UK between September 2000 and January 2002.
The team, led by Dr. Lakshmiprabha Ramasubramanian, found that almost a fifth (18 percent) of the children were overweight at the age of three, and a further five percent were obese. Among the mothers, almost four percent scored highly on a scale which measures psychological distress, called the Kessler 6 scale.
When the team analyzed the figures they found that mothers with “serious psychological distress,” which included low mood and anxiety, were significantly more likely to have children who were overweight or obese.
“Our results suggest that maternal psychological distress is associated with a higher likelihood of early childhood obesity and may increase the risk of children being overweight at the age of three,” said Dr. Ramasubramanian. But he pointed out that the study has limitations, and there could be other important factors.
However, he added, “Childhood obesity has been described as a ‘global epidemic’ by the World Health Organization. With this is mind, it is clear that more needs to be done to investigate the many factors that contribute to childhood obesity. Further studies are needed to address factors that may be modifiable to be able to address the rising trend in childhood obesity.”
Findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Dublin, September 9-11, 2009.
A similar link was found by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Pamela J. Surkan and her team looked at whether maternal depression is related to overweight in infants aged six to 24 months. They gathered data from 589 mother-child pairs living in low-income urban communities in Brazil.
They found that children of mothers with “high depressive symptoms” had around twice the risk of being above World Health Organization weight/height recommendations. A longer duration of breastfeeding (more than six months) reduced the risk, but it was increased when the mother had fewer than eight years of education.