Children who grow up without siblings have a more than 50 percent higher risk of being overweight or obese than children with siblings, notes a new research paper published in Nutrition and Diabetes. The study involved more than 12,000 children aged between 2 and 9 and covered eight European countries.
In the study, the children's measured BMI was linked to a parental questionnaire that included questions relating to the children's eating habits, television viewing habits and amount of outdoor play time. The results were controlled for other influential factors, such as gender, birth weight and parental weight.
"Our study shows that only-children play outside less often, live in households with lower levels of education more often, and are more likely to have televisions in their bedrooms. But even when we take these factors into account, the correlation between singleton status and overweight is strong. Being an only child appears to be a risk factor for overweight independent of the factors we thought might explain the difference," says Monica Hunsberger, a researcher at the University of Gothenburg who contributed to the study.
Hunsberger said the findings may be due to differences in individual family environment and family structure that the researchers were not able to measure in sufficient detail. To better understand the causality, a follow-up study of these families is planned next year.
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Source: University of Gothenburg