A new study has shown that children under the age of 12 years old are more likely to develop obesity if they live in a socioeconomically poor neighbourhood. The study looked at data from over 11,000 Finnish children to see if there was a link between socioeconomic status and weight development.
A new study was conducted by the University of Turku in Finland to examine the relationship between socioeconomic disadvantage and the development of children’s body mass index and risk of becoming overweight. The data on the children’s growth were gathered from a nationwide register of well baby clinics.
The national grid database of Statistics Finland linked information about the socioeconomic status to address coordinates. This database contains information on social and economic characteristics of all Finnish residents at the level 250 m x 250m grids.
– The socioeconomic status of the neighborhood was determined by education level, household income, as well as unemployment rate. The results were independent of the education level, economic situation, marital status and health of the children’s parents, says lead author, Docent Hanna Lagström from the Department of Public Health of the University of Turku.
Children who grew up in poorer neighborhoods were more likely to become overweight by the time they reach school age, according to the population-based data. This was even though the researchers took into account factors that could increase the likelihood of becoming overweight as children. These included e.g. These included mother’s type 2, mother’s smoking, and child’s high birth weight. Children born into higher socioeconomic backgrounds were heavier, but their weight development stabilized by age 4.
This could mean that neighbourhoods can offer different types of development environments for children and that overweight risk increases before school age in those with lower socioeconomic status. It is important to take into account the results of our research when planning for e.g. city planning to ensure that inequality is stopped right from the childhood, says Lagström.
The study is based upon 2008-2010 data from Southwest Finland Birth Cohort (SFBC). The Birth Cohort is made up of all children born in Southwest Finland’s Hospital District during the three-year period. The participants were the first children born to their mothers during this time.
The Academy of Finland, Juho Vainio Foundation, and the Hospital District of Southwest Finland funded the research.