Trio of studies examine obesity in American families

July 18, 2012

Three separate Brigham Young University studies appear in a special issue of the journal Economics and Human Biology that focuses on obesity and the family.

The sibling scale

According to an analysis of , genetics can only take part of the blame when it comes to .

Economics professor Joe Price and his student Jeff Swigert looked at and found a lot of variation occurring within the same families:

• Identical twins usually differ by 12 percentiles on BMI
• Siblings who aren’t twins differ by 29 percentiles on average
• Random pairs of non-siblings differ by 37 percentiles on average

“We tend to think of fat families and skinny families, but actually within families, there’s a lot of variation,” Price said. “What it means is that there are things families can do – things that families are doing – that can cause siblings to turn out differently.”

Previously Price has published research showing how parents unintentionally spend more time with certain children based on birth order.

Growing old together

Marriage produces a host of health benefits across the life span, but BYU professor Sven Wilson found one big exception while studying the health of people who get married later in life.

One explanation of the patterns he observed among people age 51 to 70 is that the pressure of the dating market seems to keep Body Mass Index down.

“For men, especially, marriage is simply not a weight-reducing institution,” Wilson said. “The ‘fat and happy’ moniker seems far more appropriate.”

Previously Wilson has shown that spouses often mirror each other’s health, and that held true in this new study: When one spouse’s BMI moved up or down, the other tended to follow in the same direction.

Why happiness falls when teen obesity rises

In a third study, BYU sociology professor Renata Forste and her student Erin Moore set out to find exactly what it is about teen obesity that takes a hit on their satisfaction in life.

After self-image, the second-most influential factor for teens is their perception of school. Compared to other teens, those who are overweight or obese liked school less and felt like they were performing poorly with their schoolwork.

Relationships with peers and parents also suffer, and it all adds up to a less happy adolescence – particular for teen girls.

“Both obese boys and girls experience negative perceptions and evaluations, but girls are more likely to associate these perceptions with reduced life satisfaction or overall well-being than are boys,” the authors write.

Explore further: Is teenage motherhood contagious?

Related Stories

Is teenage motherhood contagious?

August 9, 2011
New research into the factors that shape the fertility decisions of teenagers has found that within families, teen births tend to be contagious. The study by the University of Bristol has identified the impact of sibling ...

Preschoolers tend to have negative perceptions of overweight children: Canadian study

April 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A new Ryerson University study has found that some preschoolers may perceive overweight children to be not as “nice”.

More support needed for adult siblings of people with autism

November 10, 2011
An 18-month qualitative research study by the University’s Department of Health Sciences, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), explored the experiences of adult siblings at different life stages ...

Boys with absent fathers more likely to become young dads

September 8, 2011
Boys who grow up without a dad around are more likely to reach puberty later, but father their own children earlier, according to a new study.

Teen weight began to rise in 1990s, new study finds

July 12, 2011
A new study that looks at weight change over decades finds that the obesity epidemic in teens and young adults has its roots in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when body weights began to rise. But not everyone was affected ...

Recommended for you

'Obesity paradox' not found when measuring new cases of cardiovascular disease

December 7, 2017
Although obesity is a well-known risk factor for getting cardiovascular disease, a controversial body of research suggests that obesity may actually be associated with improved survival among people who have cardiovascular ...

Harmful effects of being overweight underestimated

December 1, 2017
The harmful effects of being overweight have been underestimated, according to a new study that analysed body mass index (BMI), health and mortality data in around 60,000 parents and their children, to establish how obesity ...

More than half of US children will have obesity as adults if current trends continue

November 29, 2017
If current trends in child obesity continue, more than 57% of today's children in the U.S. will have obesity at age 35, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Exercise alone does not lead to weight loss in women—in the medium term

November 23, 2017
Knowing whether or not exercise causes people to lose weight is tricky. When people take up exercise, they often restrict their diet – consciously or unconsciously – and this can mask the effects of the exercise. In our ...

Mindfulness training shows promise for maintaining weight loss

November 23, 2017
Can mindfulness training help overweight people shed pounds and keep them off? McGill University researchers surveyed the growing body of studies investigating that question, and came away encouraged.

Shaming overweight kids only makes things worse

November 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Overweight kids who are shamed or stigmatized are more likely to binge eat or isolate themselves than to make positive changes such as losing weight, a leading pediatricians' group says.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.