Teens consumed more unhealthy foods and beverages on days they were exposed to violence, and suffered from fatigue due to poor sleep the next day, according to a new study by Duke researchers. Those behaviors, especially increased soda consumption, are important predictors of weight gain.
More than 20 percent of U.S. adolescents are classified as obese. Obesity rates are higher among low-income children, and the rates are highest among Hispanic and African American children ages 12 to 19.
Children exposed to violence are at greater risk for obesity, but exactly how that occurs is not well understood, the researchers said.
“Teens provided an unique window into their lives through daily mobile-phone reports and streaming data on sleep and activity from their wearable devices,” said Candice Odgers, a professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy and senior author of the study. “Teens’ constant connectivity allowed us to identify same-day correlates of violence exposure versus simply documenting that children exposed to violence are more likely to be obese.”
The study appears online in the journal Social Science & Medicine.
Researchers collected data via cellphone multiple times per day for 30 days from an at-risk group of teens in California – the miLife study. They compared it to data from a similar study of North Carolina public school students who were more representative of the population as a whole – the RISE study. More than 500 teens were involved in the studies.