Children of working mothers are more likely to be overweight than other youngsters, research suggests.
Economists say that the increase in childhood obesity in recent decades mirrors the rise in women going out to work.
They say there is strong evidence the two trends are related – and say that providing more support to working mothers could help improve the health of the next generation.
Worldwide, childhood obesity rates have doubled since the 1970s, with some 200million children overweight in 2014.
Danish researchers said that latch-key kids may eat more junk food and less home cooking, exercise less and suffer from a lack of sleep – all of which can lead to the pounds piling on
British children are among the fattest in Europe, with nearly a quarter already overweight by the age of three and more than one in five too heavy by the time they start school.
Danish researchers said that latch-key kids may eat more junk food and less home cooking, exercise less and suffer from a lack of sleep – all of which can lead to the pounds piling on.
However, they stressed the solution isn’t to stop mothers from working but to offer them more support.
Economist Wencke Gwozdz reviewed research on maternal employment and childhood obesity from around the world.
This showed clear links between the two in many countries, including the US and US.
Long hours, shift work and long commutes appeared to be particularly damaging.
Dr Gwozdz, of the Copenhagen Business School, said women who spend lots of time at work may have less time to spend shopping for food and cooking.
This could lead to them eating poorer quality meals and home, as well as eating more.
The researcher said: ‘Out-of-home meals are generally linked to a higher risk of childhood obesity because they are often high in fat, sugar and salt.’
Dr Gwozdz, whose review is published the IZA, a German-based institute for the study of labour, that children whose mothers are absent may choose more sedentary activities.
Sleep may also suffer, with research showing that youngsters whose mothers work shifts get up to one and a half hours less sleep a week than children of stay-at-home mothers.
Women who spend lots of time at work ‘may have less time to spend shopping for food and cooking’
Finally, the link was strongest between the ages of five and ten – a time when youngsters are becoming more independent.
Dr Gwozdz said: ‘Childhood obesity rates have doubled since the 1970s.
‘This high prevalence is concerning because of obesity’s harmful effects on children’s emotional and physical health and the high likelihood that childhood obesity will transmit into adulthood.
‘Childhood obesity is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and lower life expectancy, even when formerly obese children lose weight in adulthood.
‘Healthcare costs are also much higher.
‘Any potential explanation for the childhood obesity epidemic must also involve the parental environment.
‘One noteworthy change over this time that has influenced family life is the increase in female employment.’
Her review found that some countries bucked the trend.
These included Denmark, where state funding of childcare is particularly high.
Dr Gwozdz said: ‘If high-quality childcare means that children have access to nutritious diets and physical activity outside their home and if this childcare is available to all working families, then it should not matter for child development whether mothers work or not.
‘Policy measures such thus aim at providing working parents with greater flexibility to spend time with their children and developing high-quality and affordable childcare.’
With good food habits and daily physical activity you will be well on your way to a healthy life. Easy to say, but sometimes not so easy to do!
Our busy lifestyles can be hard on our family’s health. Rushing to and from school and work can make it hard to find time to be physically active. We can also slip into the habit of choosing unhealthy snacks and take-away foods or spending our free time watching TV or in front of the computer.
However, these choices can be dangerous for our health and our children’s health – both now and in the long-term. That’s why it’s so important to stop, take stock and make a conscious decision to follow a healthy lifestyle.
How to lead a healthy lifestyle for your kids as a working mum
There are five simple ways for your family to lead a healthy lifestyle and get back on track:
- Regular physical activity is important for the healthy growth, development and well-being of children and young people.
- They should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day, including vigorous activities that make them ‘huff and puff’.
- Include activities that strengthen muscles and bones on at least 3 days of the we
- 2. Choose water as a drink
- Water is the best way to quench your thirst – and it doesn’t come with the added sugar found in fruit juices, soft drinks and other sweetened drinks.
- Reduced fat milk for children over two is a nutritious drink and a great source of calcium.
- Give kids whole fruit to eat, rather than offering fruit juices that have a lot of sugar.
- Eating fruit and vegetables every day helps children grow and develop, boosts their vitality and can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.
- Aim to eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables every day.
- Have fresh fruit available as a convenient snack and try to include fruit and vegies in every meal.
- Sedentary or ‘still’ time spent watching TV, surfing online or playing computer games is linked to kids becoming overweight or obese.
- Children and young people should spend no more than two hours a day on ‘small screen’ entertainment. Break up long periods of use as often as possible.
- Plan a range of active indoor and outdoor games or activities for your children, as alternatives to watching TV or playing on the computer.
- Healthy snacks help children and young people meet their daily nutritional needs.
- Snacks based on fruit and vegetables, reduced fat dairy products and whole grains are the healthiest choices.
- Avoid snacks that are high in sugar or saturated fats – such as chips, cakes and chocolate – which can cause children to put on excess weight.