Ever heard of recession obesity? It is getting fat during lean times. This is mainly due to the fact that people tend to cut back on the essential and healthy things (see previous post) during economic downturns such as what we are experiencing now. However, it is only lately that health experts realized how really serious the problem really is – especially among children and adolescents.
Researchers at Duke University looked at a variety of indicators that could assess how children are faring now compared how they fared in the past and how they would do so in the future. This compilation of indices resulted in the “2009 Child Well-Being Index”, which calculates the health and economic status of American children. The Index addresses questions which include:
- Overall, on average, how did child and youth well-being in the United States of America change in the last quarter of the 20th century and beyond?
- Did it improve or deteriorate?
- By how much?
- In which domains or areas of social life?
- For specific age groups?
- For particular race/ethnic groups?
- And did race/ethnic group disparities increase or decrease?
A possible scenario that could lead to recession obesity:
Parents opt to feed their children cheap but filling fast food meals and cut down on the relative more expensive fresh fruit and vegetables.
According to Kenneth Land, project director of the Child Well-Being Index and sociology professor at Duke University:
“There is concern with ‘recession obesity’ apart from the general trend toward an increasing number of obese American children. There is a concern that parents will substitute fast food, high carbohydrate and high sugar-content food, for healthy food and that this will cause an uptick in the rate of overweight children and adolescents.”
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year reported that 32% of American children overweight, while 16% were obese.
Aside from the obesity problem, the researchers also observed the following:
- Mortality rates for children aged 1 to 19 years old increased in previous recessions. This is expected to happen again.
- The rate of violent crimes among teenagers also increased, and is anticipated to occur again.
- The recession is resulting in a housing crisis, uprooting many adolescents.
- A large number of 16 to 19-year olds are out of school but can’t find work, “leaving them particularly vulnerable to delinquency and crime.”
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