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July 23rd, 2007

A study carried out by researchers at the University College London Institute of Child Health (ICH) demonstrates a possible link between the length of maternal working hours and a rise in childhood obesity.

Researchers at the ICH Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology have studied 13,113 children and their families in the Millennium Cohort Study, born in the United Kingdom between 2000 and 2002, and followed since birth.

The children were 14 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese at age three if their mothers had been employed since their birth. In high-earning families (annual income £33,000 or more), children were 10 per cent more likely to be overweight or obese for each extra 10 hours a week their mother worked. Their partner’s employment was not related to early childhood obesity.

This suggests that long hours of maternal employment rather than lack of money may reduce children’s access to healthy foods and physical activity. More needs to be learned about the factors linking maternal employment and childhood obesity. For example, little is known about diet or physical activity in children with and without working mothers.

Professor Tim Cole at ICH, an author on the paper, said: “We need to identify risk factors for obesity in young children to help inform policy. Maternal employment is just one of many risk factors for obesity in children, but these results demonstrate that working parents need additional support, such as more opportunities to work flexible hours.”

Source: UCL Institute of Child Health


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