(RxWiki News) When two parents get divorced, their children might experience some emotional hardship. But what about physical hardships?
A recent study found that children of divorced parents were more likely to be overweight or obese than children with married parents.
The researchers discovered that the sons of divorced parents were particularly more likely to be overweight or obese.
"Talk to a pediatrician about your child’s weight."
The lead author of this study was Anna Biehl, PhD, from the Division of Epidemiology at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health in Oslo, Norway and The Morbid Obesity Centre at Vestfold Hospital Trust in Tønsberg, Norway.
The study included 3,137 third-graders from 127 primary schools across Norway who participated in the Norwegian Child Growth Study in 2010.
There were 1,529 girls and 1,608 boys, and the average age of the children was 8 years old.
School nurses measured the children’s height, weight and waist size.
Overweight and obesity was defined as having a body mass index (height to weight ratio) of 25 or more. Abdominal obesity was defined as having a waist-to-height ratio (waist size in centimeters/height in centimeters) of 0.5 or higher.
The researchers used the National Population Registry of Norway to determine if the children’s parents were married, never married or divorced.
The findings showed that 19 percent of the children were generally overweight or obese and 9 percent were abdominally obese.
A total of 2,004 children had married parents, 903 had parents who were never married, and 230 were the children of divorced parents.
Of the children with divorced parents, 28 percent were overweight or obese, compared with 19 percent of the children of never married parents and 18 percent of the children with married parents.
The researchers discovered that 16 percent of the children of divorced parents were abdominally obese versus 8 percent of the children whose parents were never married and 9 percent of the children with married parents.
Compared to the children of married parents, the children of divorced parents were 54 percent more likely to be generally overweight or obese, and 89 percent more likely to be abdominally obese.
The children of parents who never married and the children of married parents both had similar odds of being overweight or obese and abdominally obese.
The findings also revealed an especially large difference in rates of overweight and obesity and abdominal obesity among the boys.
The sons of divorced parents were 63 percent more likely to be overweight or obese and 2.04 times more likely to be abdominally obese than the sons of parents who were married.
The association between overweight and obesity and abdominal obesity and parental marital status was not statistically significant among the girls.
Dr. Biehl and team suggested that the emotional fallout associated with a divorce might explain the findings.
This study was limited because data on parental marital status was from a single point in time, so the researchers had no way of knowing if parents had stayed married or not. In addition, the "never married" category was very broad.
The researchers also did not know whether being overweight or obese happened due to a divorce because the data set was from a previous study at a certain point in time.
It was also possible that a large proportion of overweight children were absent from school the day this study was conducted.
Lastly, the data used did not include any information on contributing factors such as the children’s average level of physical activity or their dietary habits.
This study was published on June 4 in BMJ Open.
The Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Morbid Obesity Center provided funding.