Publication Abstract

Authors: Smith AW, Baum A, Wing RR

Title: Stress and weight gain in parents of cancer patients.

Journal: Int J Obes (Lond) 29(2):244-50

Date: 2005 Feb

Abstract: OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of chronic stress on weight changes and related behavioral changes in parents with a child who had just been diagnosed with cancer compared to parents with healthy children. DESIGN: Longitudinal case-control study with assessments occurring over a three-month period following the child's diagnosis of cancer. SUBJECTS: In total, 49 parents of healthy children and 49 parents of cancer patients aged 19-58. MEASUREMENTS: Body weight, diet, physical activity, self-reported mood and stress. RESULTS: Parents of cancer patients were more likely to gain weight, and experienced significantly greater weight gain over the 3 months than parents of healthy children. The magnitude of weight gain was related to the degree of psychological distress that the parents experienced. Parents of cancer patients reported lower levels of physical activity and lower caloric intake than parents of healthy children, with the most marked differences between groups occurring in the area of physical activity. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that a major stressor, such as a child's diagnosis of cancer, is associated with weight gain. Further research is needed to determine how long these weight gains persist and whether other types of stress also produce weight gains. Such studies should focus not only on the effect of stress on eating behavior but also on physical activity.