Children who live in poor neighbourhoods are more likely to become overweight before school age than those living in more affluent areas, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed the link between the development of children’s body mass index (BMI), the likelihood of becoming overweight before they start attending school, and their neighbourhoods’ socioeconomic status.

The information used in the study was based on 11,000 Finnish children. Their growth data was collected from a national register of well-baby clinics. The children’s neighbourhood socioeconomic status came from the national grid database of Statistics Finland which uses education level, household income, and unemployment rate to calculate the areas socioeconomic status.

Lead author, Docent Hanna Lagström states that results were unbiassed regarding the parents’ level of education, marital status, health, and economic situation.

The study considered factors which could impact the child’s likelihood of becoming overweight, including a high birth weight and their mother having type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, results showed that children living in a lower status socioeconomic area were more likely to become overweight by the time they reached school age.

Although children living in a more prosperous neighbourhood weighed more at birth, the study revealed that their weight development and management stabilised by the time they were four years old.

The findings implicate that the different socioeconomic status of neighbourhoods provide different types of child development environments.

The study took place at the University of Turku, Finland, and used data between 2008 to 2010 from the Southwest Finland Birth Cohort (SFBC).

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology.

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