Children of poorly-educated mothers face higher risk of obesity than those whose mothers are well-educated, suggests a new study.
For the study, published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology journal, the researchers analysed data of 41,399 children in three European countries — Ireland, Portugal and the UK — using the mother’s highest level of education as a marker of socio-economic position.
The researchers from Trinity College, Ireland observed that children from poor socio-economic backgrounds or primary-educated backgrounds were more likely to be overweight or obese at any age as compared to children whose mothers’ had a tertiary-level education.
In Ireland, boys and girls aged 13 whose mothers had a primary-level education measured heavier as compared to children from tertiary-level (university-level) backgrounds, the study found.
“This study shows that children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds gain body mass more quickly than their more advantaged peers, are more likely to be overweight or obese from pre-school age onwards, and are more likely to become obese if previously non-overweight. They are quite literally carrying a heavier burden of disease from much earlier in life,” said lead author Cathal McCrory, Research Assistant Professor at Trinity College.
“These findings reinforce the necessity of challenging the childhood obesity epidemic at early ages as these patterns are difficult to change once they have become entrenched,” McCrory added.
The study showed while there were no differences in Body Mass Index (BMI) between children grouped by their mothers’ education in infancy, differences in BMI emerged by pre-school age (3-5 years).
“This research shows that inequalities in health and life expectancy start early in life and are well established by age five. Most children who are obese have a higher risk of being obese in adulthood with long-term health consequences,” said Richard Layte, Professor of Sociology at the varsity.