Children without siblings are significantly more likely to be overweight

September 17, 2012

Children who grow up without siblings have a more than 50 percent higher risk of being overweight or obese than children with siblings. This is the finding of a study of 12,700 children in eight European countries, including Sweden, published in Nutrition and Diabetes. The University of Gothenburg, Sweden, was one of the participating universities in the study.

The study was conducted under the framework of the European research project Identification and prevention of Dietary and lifestyle-induced health EFfects In Children and infantS (IDEFICS), where researchers from various parts of Europe study diet, lifestyle and obesity and their on children aged 2 to 9 years.

The study shows that only children have a more than 50 percent higher risk of obesity compared to their peers with siblings. The results were controlled for other influential factors, such as gender, and parental weight.

In the study, the children's measured BMI was linked to a parental questionnaire that included questions relating to the children's , television viewing habits and amount of time.

- 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 Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, who contributed to the study.

- The fact that only children are more susceptible to obesity may be due to differences in individual and family structure that we were not able to measure in sufficient detail. To better understand the causality, a follow-up study of these families will start next year, says Lauren Lissner, a researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

Over 22 million children in Europe are estimated to be overweight. The study shows that obesity among children in general is three times more common in southern countries such as Italy, Spain and Cyprus than in Sweden and other northern countries.

Explore further: School climate can affect overweight children for life

More information: The article "Overweight in singletons compared to children with siblings: the IDEFICS study" was published in Nutrition and Diabetes in July.

Related Stories

School climate can affect overweight children for life

April 24, 2012
Kids can be really mean – especially to other kids – and school-yard bullying can have serious immediate and long-term effects. One area of increasing concern in this regard is the possibility that overweight or ...

Recommended for you

Weight loss for adults at any age leads to cost savings, study suggests

September 26, 2017
Helping an adult lose weight leads to significant cost savings at any age, with those savings peaking at age 50, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Living near fast food outlets linked to weight gain in primary school children

September 11, 2017
Children with greater access to fast food outlets are more likely to gain weight compared to those living further away, new research suggests.

Shedding consistent pounds each week linked to long-term weight loss

August 28, 2017
When it comes to losing weight, it's not necessarily slow, but steady, that wins the race, according to new research from Drexel University.

Kids with weight issues at high risk of emotional and behavioural problems

August 10, 2017
A new, in-depth study of New Zealand children and teenagers seeking help with weight issues has found their emotional health and wellbeing is, on average, markedly worse than that of children without weight issues.

Study finds 90 percent of American men overfat

July 24, 2017
Does your waist measure more than half your height?

Are sugary drink interventions changing people's behaviour?

July 19, 2017
An evaluation of efforts designed to reduce how many sugary drinks we consume shows some success in changing younger people's habits but warns they cannot be the only way to cut consumption.

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.