Divorce can be an emotionally traumatic time for kids — but did you know it can also affect them on the outside? A new study involving more than 3000 children found that marital splits can lead to a higher risk of overweight and obesity. In other words, while a loveless marriage isn’t healthy, at least your kids will be.
Obese kid picture from Shutterstock
Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health analysed the weight statistics of over 3000 pupils who were part of a national growth study. School nurses measured the height, weight, and waist circumference of the children to gauge general overweight and obesity, as defined by a waist to height ratio of 0.5 or more. The study also factored in the marital status of parents.
Almost 20 per cent of children in the study were overweight, with around one in ten falling on the wrong side of obese. Statistically, children whose parents were divorced were 54 per cent more likely to be overweight than children whose parents were still together. They were also 89 per cent more likely to be abdominally obese.
Interestingly, divorce seemed to affect boys’ weight more than girls. Boys with separated parents were 63 per cent more likely to be generally overweight and a massive 104% more likely to be abdominally obese compared to boys with married parents.
The findings held true even after taking account of other possible explanatory factors, such as maternal education, family country background and area of residence.
General overweight (including obesity) was 1.54 (95% CI 1.21 to 1.95) times more prevalent among children of divorced parents compared with children of married parents, and the corresponding prevalence ratio for abdominal obesity was 1.89 (95% CI 1.35 to 2.65).
According to the researchers, the higher obesity rate among children of divorce could be due to a range of contributing factors, including less time spent on domestic tasks, an over-reliance on unhealthier convenience foods and a drop in household income. In addition, increased emotional stress, ongoing conflict between the exes and the need to create new social networks could also play a part in weight gain.
The report concludes that a deeper focus on societal changes could help to identify vulnerable groups at risk of developing obesity. However, the authors acknowledge that the design of their study does not provide a basis for establishing cause and effect, but rather, lends support to other pre-existing studies.