University of Houston Study Finds a Link Behind Childhood Poverty and Risk of Adult Obesity for Women

A new study by researchers at the University of Houston finds a direct correlation between childhood poverty and a higher risk of obesity in adulthood for women. The study examined 4,000 young adults born in the 1980s. The young women who had the most years being raised in poverty were found to have the highest risk of obesity by the time they were young adults.

Daphne C. Hernandez, an assistant professor of health and human performance at the University of Houston and lead author of the study, stated, “We know that having a low socioeconomic status during childhood contributes to children being overweight or obese. We’ve found a connection between the long-term exposure to poverty during childhood and obesity rates among young adult woman.”

Dr. Hernandez offers this explanation for the results that she found: “There are behavioral and physiological underpinnings associated with residing in stressful environments that are associated with weight gain, especially among women. Further, disadvantaged neighborhoods are associated with more fast food restaurants, fewer grocery stores, lower levels of safety and fewer opportunities for physical activities.  All of this can contribute to weight gain over time.”

Dr. Hernandez is a graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in psychology. She earned a master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in applied developmental & educational psychology at Boston College.

The article, “Accumulation of Childhood Poverty on Young Adult Overweight or Obese Status: Race/Ethnicity and Gender Disparities,” was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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