Children of divorce tend to be more overweight than children whose parents never split, according to a new study.
Researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Oslo studied 3,166 Norwegian third graders to determine whether or not their parents' marital status affected their weight.
In order to do this, trained school nurses measured the children's body weight and height while they were wearing light clothing and no shoes. Data for parental marital status was taken from the National Population Registry and broken up into three groups: married, divorced and never married.
According to the study, "Children of divorced parents had a 54 percent higher prevalence of general overweight (including obesity) and 89 percent higher prevalence of abdominal obesity compared to children of married parents."
Boys with divorced parents were especially at risk; they had a 63 percent higher prevalence of being overweight than boys with married parents.
The researchers note that correlation does not mean causation, but they did speculate as to why this study and other studies have turned up similar results, writing, "A consequence [of divorce] might be less time for domestic tasks such as cooking and reliance on more convenient, ready-to-eat foods".
They also speculate that fewer economic resources may lead to cheaper, less healthy food choices and that increased emotional distress caused by divorce could impact eating behavior and physical activity.
The study was published June 4 in the online journal BMJ Open.