Socioeconomic status during childhood linked to eating habits as adults

Research states that students from a relatively impoverished environment eat more than those who come from a wealthier background

By Jitendra
Published: Monday 08 February 2016

Growing up poor promotes eating in the absence of hunger in adulthood, say researchers (Photo credit: Lorrie Graham/AusAID CC BY 2.0)

A child’s socioeconomic status is linked to her eating habits during adulthood, a study published in journal Psychological Science has revealed.

It shows that children who lived in low socioeconomic conditions are more likely to eat more than required during adulthood when compared to those who lived in better socioeconomic conditions.

“Our research shows that growing up poor promotes eating in the absence of hunger in adulthood, regardless of one’s wealth in adulthood,” says psychological scientist Sarah Hill of Texas Christian University in a press release. “These findings are important because they suggest that a person’s developmental history may play a key role in their relationship with food and weight management.”

According to the release, a previous study had already established the fact that childhood poverty increases the risk of obesity. It had cited the lack of healthy food and a safe place to play as probable reasons for this trend.

According to Hill and her colleagues, early experiences might cause an individual to regulate their energy needs throughout their life span. “This biological blueprint would help children survive in impoverished environments, leading them to seek out food whenever it is available, and would continue to drive their behavior as they aged, regardless of whether their access to food had improved,” the release states.

The research was carried out on 31 undergraduate women as part of a consumer research study. It was found that students from a relatively impoverished environment ate more than those who came from a wealthier background. It was also assessed that energy needs were not the criteria while eating among students who grew up in poorer homes. 

“Our research suggests that people who grew up in relatively impoverished environments may have a harder time controlling food intake and managing their body weight than those who grew up in wealthier environments,” explains Hill.

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