Kids of depressed mums watch more TV & weigh more

About one-third of mothers had high levels of depression while one-half were obese, depressed or both.

Preschool-age children of depressed mothers watch more television than those of non-depressed moms, putting them at increased risk of obesity, researchers report.

``Depressed moms' kids watch more extra half-hour per day on average,'' Dr. Hillary Burdette, a study author, told Reuters Health.

She noted that higher stress levels in moms were correlated with additional television viewing in children overall.

``When understanding how young kids spend their time we have to think of the mother's well-being,'' she said.

Children who watch more TV spend less time outdoors, and youngsters tend to be more physically active when they are outside, Burdette, from the Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, noted.

The researchers surveyed 150 low-income mothers of preschool children who were participating in the Vermont Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). They interviewed mothers about their body mass index (BMI), levels of depression and stress, and their kids' daily television-viewing habits. While the mothers were re-registering for the program, the researchers also calculated the BMI of the children, who ranged from 3 to 5 years old.

The study findings, presented Monday at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Quebec City, Canada, showed that many children were overweight and about 16% had a BMI--a measure of weight in relation to height--above the 90th percentile. About 5% of children in an average group would be expected to weigh in at this level, Burdette said.

The children of depressed moms who were normal weight watched an additional half-hour of television a day and those with mothers who were both depressed and obese watched an additional hour of television daily.

Burdette suggested that mothers who are depressed or stressed may not encourage their children to go outside and be active.

She believes the findings are important for programs that address childhood obesity, a growing problem in the US.

``Childhood obesity prevention strategies need to address the role that maternal well-being may play in how preschool children spend their time,'' the study concludes. 

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