Maternal education and household income at birth can increase a child’s chances of being overweight and obese, research suggests.
The study analysed the relationship between early childhood socioeconomic status (SES), measured by maternal education and household income, and subsequent development of childhood overweight and obesity. Researchers looked at data from seven cohorts of children from the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Canada (one national cohort and one from Quebec province), the US and Sweden, to see why some are at more risk than others.
Social inequalities were evident across all cohorts, with greater risk of overweight and obesity linked to lower levels of maternal education in early childhood. There was also a link to household income, but this was less robust.
Prevalence ranged from 15% overweight and 2.4% obese in the Swedish cohort to 37.6% overweight and 15.8% obese in the US cohort.
There was a social gradient by maternal education on the risk of childhood obesity in all cohorts. The SES associations measured by income were more varied and differed between Sweden and other national cohorts; these findings may be attributable to policy differences, including pre-school policies, maternity leave, a ban on advertising to children, and universal free school meals.
Image credit | Shutterstock