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Childhood Weight May Predict Age of First Substance Abuse: Study
Obesity has been one of the biggest health concerns across the globe, especially in the developed
countries. Now, it has also found some connection with addiction. A recent study, conducted by the
Indiana University School of Education, has revealed that overweight children are more likely to abuse
substances at an earlier age compared to healthy-weight children.
In fact, several previous studies tried to establish a relationship between childhood obesity and substance
abuse, but the latest study, titled “Childhood weight status and timing of first substance use in an
ethnically diverse sample,” is a more detailed one and includes other pertinent aspects. The correlation
between substance abuse and weight becomes more prominent only when the data is further delineated
by the subjects’ ethnicity and gender, the researchers felt.
The research, published
in the journal Drug and
Alcohol Dependence in
June 2016, is the first of
its kind to explore the
and the timing of the first
instance of substance
abuse by considering sex,
race or ethnicity of the
“Early drinking and drug
use are associated with
increased risk of problem
substance use,” said
student at the Department of Counseling and Educational Psychology. “Identifying predictors of early
substance use, including weight status during childhood, can help us develop targeted substance abuse
Using the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NSLY), the researchers studied
approximately 7,000 subjects to establish the relationship between weight status of children at age 7 and
8 and the age when they actually began using illicit substances.
Results influenced by ethnicity and gender
The outcome of the research depended on the race and gender of the participants. It was found that a
Hispanic girl who was overweight as a child was more likely to use marijuana and alcohol earlier, whereas
a white girl would use cigarette and marijuana earlier. Surprisingly, among black females, no correlation
between childhood overweight and age of first substance use, including addiction to cigarettes, marijuana
or alcohol, could be established.
In sharp contrast, it was also found that obese white males and underweight Hispanic and black males
were less inclined than their peers to start using illicit substances as teens. Previous studies on the subject
pooled data for boys and girls and for black, white and Hispanic youth, which yielded few or no obvious
The researchers noted that it only makes sense to categorize the data by clusters of ethnic groups and by
sex because of the well-documented differences in obesity rates and in rates of substance abuse among
diverse groups of children and youth.
“What was most surprising, at least to us, were the different patterns observed for girls and boys,” said
Mary Waldron, associate professor at the department of Counseling and Educational Psychology. “Again,
for girls, earlier substance use was associated with being overweight as a child, especially for Hispanic
girls. For boys, unhealthy weight status predicted later substance use.”
Fighting drug addiction
More extensive researches are required in the future to unearth the reasons for all these discrepancies.
Unhealthy weight can also impact peer relationships, which scientists need to focus on, apart from just
determining the age of the first use of any illicit substance.
Substance abuse is a scourge which needs to be tackled with the right treatment method. If a loved one
is grappling with an addiction and you are looking for drug addiction treatment centers in Texas, call the
Texas Drug Addiction Treatment at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-5757. Our experts can provide you
with the best advice on drug addiction treatment in Texas. Availing treatment at one of the trusted drug
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