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Study: Depressed Mothers More Likely to Raise Overweight Children

Overweight childMothers who report symptoms of depression are more likely to display obesity-promoting practices and have children who are overweight or obese than mothers who say they are not depressed, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx asked 401 mothers to rate themselves on symptoms of depression such as loss of interest, fatigue, low energy and poor concentration. The mothers whose symptoms suggested moderate to severe depression were more than 2.5 times more likely to have overweight or obese 5-year-olds. (Mothers with mild depressive symptoms were also found to have greater odds of having an overweight or obese child, but the difference was not statistically significant.)

The list of possible explanations for the correlation is long. The researchers found that the children of the depressed women (all low-income, the majority of whom were Hispanic and black Bronx residents, all with children who had been patients at Montefiore’s family care center), were more likely to consume sweetened drinks and less likely to eat breakfast (studies show that skipping a morning meal can actually make weight control more difficult) than the children of nondepressed mothers.

The depressed mothers were also less likely to restrict their child’s food intake and model good eating habits. Adding to the mix, their children got less sleep (sleep deprivation is linked to childhood obesity), less outdoor playtime (which, of course, also impacts weight) and more screen time.

“We’ve known that many mothers experience feelings of sadness and depression and that many of them suffer in silence,” said Rachel S. Gross, attending pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and the lead author of the study…

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