Family's income, education influence depression and obesity in teens - November 13, 2003

About a third of depression and obesity among U.S. teenagers can be attributed to being from families with low incomes or having parents with low educational levels, according to a new analysis of more than 15,000 young people.

"Socioeconomic status accounts for a large proportion of the disease burden within the whole population," said researchers Elizabeth Goodman, MD, from Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, and colleagues from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "To understand youth health and behaviors, the context in which youth live must be considered."

The study appears in the November 2003 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

"Obesity and depression represent critical public health problems for today's youth, because both are highly prevalent chronic diseases that track into adulthood," Goodman said.

The researchers used 1994 household income data and parents' educational attainment from the families of 15,112 adolescents, surveyed as part of National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Goodman's group applied a standard measure of depression and calculated body mass index from the teenagers' height and weight to determine obesity.

Lower family income accounted for 26% of depression and 32% of obesity among these adolescents. Forty percent of depression and 39% of obesity was attributable to lower parental education.

The researchers observed that the effect of lower parental education was stronger than that of income for both depression and obesity.

"Education's effect may relate more to differences in coping styles and other interpersonal skills, whereas income's effect may be more strongly associated with material goods and services," Goodman suggested.

This study was supported in part by a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation, and based on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add-Health). This article was prepared by Biotech Week editors from staff and other reports.

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Last updated: 11/21/2003 - 05:49 PM