Evidence from recent research has shown an association between obesity and stress in adults, and now researchers have found that Latino parents who report high stress levels are twice as likely to have children with obesity. The study results were recently presented in a poster at the 2015 Obesity Society Annual Meeting‘s Obesity Week, which took place in Los Angeles, California.
With the aim of examining the relationship between parental stress and child weight status in the Latino population, the team of investigators, led by Carmen Isasi, MD, PhD, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, looked at data derived from the Study of Latino Youth (SOL Youth), a community-based study of Latinos living in four U.S. cities: the Bronx, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego. The research was sponsored by the National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“Obesity and chronic stress were both prevalent among this Latino population, with more than one-quarter (28%) of children ages 8-16 with obesity, and nearly one-third (29%) of their parents reporting high levels of stress,” said Dr. Isasi in a news release.”This study is among the first of its kind to show that parental stress is a risk factor for childhood obesity among Latinos, and adds to the understanding of family influences on child weight status.”
The team looked at data concerning the stress and weight levels of Latino parents and their children. To define weight status, the researchers used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. To evaluate parent’s stress, the researchers used the Chronic Stress Burden Scale, an eight-item measure of ongoing stressors like difficulties at work or in a relationship.
The results revealed that the prevalence of obesity in children increased with the number of parental reported stress factors, from 20% in those parents who reported no stress to 34% in children whose parents reported three or more stress factors. After the data was adjusted for sex, age, place of birth and location, results revealed that parents who reported three or more chronic stressors were twice as likely to have children with obesity compared to parents who reported no stress.
“This research should encourage clinicians and healthcare practitioners to consider high stress levels as a warning sign for developing obesity not only in the adult patient, but also in the patient’s entire family,” said Margarita Teran-Garcia, MD, PhD, FTOS, At-Large Mexico Council member for The Obesity Society. “Although the study is cross-sectional, it suggests that special attention should be paid to adult patients who report experiencing high stress levels in this population, and providers are encouraged to consider behavioral counseling as one measure for obesity prevention and treatments.”
More studies are necessary to assess the causes and potential interventions to prevent parental stress and its association with childhood obesity, as well as studies exploring these associations in other populations.