Overweight in children due to long working hours of the parents

Overweight in children due to long working hours of the parents

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Risk of overweight in children increases due to long working hours of the parents

More and more children are overweight, which can have lifelong consequences for their health. Mostly, the causes (rightly) refer to unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. But other aspects, in which one would initially not suspect any connection with the weight of the children, also play a role. A new study comes to the conclusion that long working hours of the parents increase the risk of being overweight for their offspring.

The research team around Dr. In his current study, Jianghong Li from the Berlin Science Center for Social Research examined possible connections between the body weight of children and the working hours of their parents - with a clear result. "Long working hours of mothers and fathers increase the risk of their children suffering from obesity or obesity in preschool age," the researchers report in a press release on the study results.

Preschool age is a crucial development phase

In their study, the researchers focused on children aged up to six years, since preschool age is a crucial development phase for body weight. The foundations for lifelong weight problems - with corresponding health consequences - are often laid in this phase of life. Surprisingly, the working hours of the parents seem to play a role that should not be underestimated.

The risk of children increases with working hours

According to the researchers, the risk of being overweight in their children increases with the parents' working hours. The data analysis shows that "children of mothers who work 35 hours or more a week are at increased risk of being overweight and obese - compared to children whose mothers are not employed." In addition, that in combination with long Working hours of the father (from 55 hours a week) and shorter working hours of the mother (24 to 34 hours a week) already have a negative impact on the children's body weight.

Declining food quality and activity level an explanation?

The study is one of the few studies in which the effects of maternal and paternal working hours are considered together, reports the research team. It has been shown that the working hours of the fathers also play an important role. Although the investigation does not provide an explanation for the connection found, the researchers have some assumptions about this. So it is possible that "the nutritional quality and physical activity level of preschool children with longer working hours of the mothers decrease", reports the study leader Dr. Jianghong Li. This connection has already been proven by studies for Germany and other industrialized countries.

How much exercise does a child need?

Exercise is essential not only for adults, but also for children and adolescents for good physical and mental development. Regardless of whether it's raging, playing, running, climbing or targeted sports exercises - the type of movement is not the main focus. The main thing is that the body moves every day. There is a pronounced urge to move in infants and young children up to three years of age, which parents should restrict as little as possible. Kindergarten children up to six years of age should receive over three hours of exercise a day and between six and 18 years of age 1.5 hours of exercise every day.

Further studies required

Another reason for the connection found could be the interrupted sleep rhythms in children whose parents work long, according to Dr. Li. However, further investigations with more extensive data are necessary to check this. For the current study, the researchers used the data from the Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) for 2,413 children between the ages of 0 and 6 years. The BMI (Body Mass Index) was used to determine whether the children were overweight. The research team then looked for possible connections with the working hours of the parents, which were also recorded. The results of this data evaluation were published in the specialist journal "Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health".

No significant effect with low income

According to the research team, the negative impact of long working hours on body weight was found particularly in children from middle and high income families, while this relationship was not demonstrated in low income families. The researchers can only speculate as to why this is so. For example, it would be conceivable that longer working hours in lower-income families go hand in hand with higher earnings that compensate for the negative consequences of the lack of time, Dr. Li.

Attending daycare protects against obesity

Regardless of the children's social background, the researchers found a reduced risk of being overweight or obese in the data when the children attended a daycare center. How Dr. Li concluded that government investment to improve daycare centers, particularly nutritional quality and proper physical activity, can help working parents with their educational tasks. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • Science Center Berlin for Social Research: Long working hours of parents increase the risk of their children becoming overweight (accessed: 08/01/2019), WZB
  • Li, Jianghong; Kaiser, Till; Pollmann-Schult, Matthias; Strazdins, Lyndall: Long work hours of mothers and fathers are linked to increased risk for overweight and obesity among preschool children: longitudinal evidence from Germany; in Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2019; 73: 723-729, BMJ Journals

Video: Parents Slow to Recognize Obese Children (September 2022).


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    Useful topic

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    The highest number of points is achieved. I think this is a great idea.

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