Social risk factors increase odds of obesity in girls by age 5

April 19, 2012

New research has found that cumulative exposure to social risk factors in girls aged 1 and 3 years increases their odds of being obese by 5 years, with even higher odds if 2 or more risk factors are experienced at the same time. What are these risk factors, and how do you spot them during visits?

New research has found that cumulative exposure to social risk factors in girls aged 1 and 3 years increases their odds of being obese by 5 years, with even higher odds if 2 or more risk factors are experienced at the same time.

Cumulative social risk scores were applied to 1,605 preschool-aged children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study according to 6 risk factors: maternal mental health, maternal substance abuse, intimate partner violence, housing insecurity, food insecurity, and paternal incarceration. Researchers assessed each child at 1 year and again at 3 years. The child’s height and weight were measured at 5 years.

Among the study participants, 17% were obese at 5 years, with 57% having at least 1 social risk factor. Girls with 2 or more risk factors at 1 year only, or at 3 years only, were at increased odds of being obese compared with girls with no risk factors at either time point. Girls who experienced high cumulative risk at both 1 year and 3 years also were at increased odds of being obese, but the association was not statistically significant.

No significant associations between social stressors and obesity were noted among boys. The researchers suggested that this could be the result of differences in coping mechanisms, with girls perhaps more likely to respond to stress with emotional and binge eating.

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