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Skimping On Sleep In Childhood Could Speed Up Cellular Aging

New U.S. research has found that children who sleep less appear to age faster at the cellular level – a process which can have a negative effect on health later in life.

Previous smaller studies on adults have already suggested that sleep might be linked to a shortening of telomeres – the protective “caps” at the end of our chromosomes.

Telomeres naturally get shorter as we age, every time our cells divide. However, certain lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, poor diet, and lack of exercise, appear to accelerate this process.

When telomeres get too short, it is believed that cells are no longer able to divide in order to repair and replenish the body – a sign of aging.

Reported by New Scientist, the new study was carried out by researchers Sarah James and Daniel
Notterman and their team from Princeton University, and set out to see if sleep was linked to telomere length in children, not only adults.

The researchers gathered information from a database of 1,567 nine-year-old children from cities across the U.S., which included the children’s average sleep duration.

Saliva samples were also taken from each child to extract DNA and examine the length of their telomeres.

The results showed that those who had a shorter sleep duration also had shorter telomeres, with telomere length 1.5 per cent shorter for each hour less that children sleep per night.

The findings could be significant for children’s future health, as short telomeres have previously been linked to cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline.

Although at just 9 years old the children in the study didn’t show any signs of these conditions, James still commented that the study “raises concerns.”

Exactly how much sleep adults should be getting can be confusing, with some previous studies suggesting that too much sleep could be just as bad as too little. However, it appeared in this study that in the case of children and cell ageing more sleep is better, with James advising sticking to the current recommendation of between 9 and 11 hours of sleep per night.

Whether more sleep could actually help reverse telomere shortening remains unknown.

The findings can be found published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Relaxnews   Friday, July 7, 2017 
source:  www.ctvnews.ca

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Busy Schedules are Putting Children’s Health at Risk

‘Worry and busyness and stress is robbing children of their peace of mind,’ says child therapist

According to child and family therapist Michele Kambolis, children are vulnerable to anxiety and stress preventing them from getting a good night’s sleep.

Busy schedules, too many worries and a lack of sleep could be threatening the health of your children, one expert is warning parents.

Vancouver-based child and family therapist Michele Kambolis says she often hears from children who say they are working with tutors or doing homework late into the night.

“Worry and busyness and stress is robbing children of their peace of mind,” she says.

But getting enough sleep is crucial to a child’s development, Kambolis says.

“It’s a non-negotiable part of their health. Children who are sleep-deprived are at risk for a whole host of problems including difficulties at school.”

Cultural attitudes to sleep play a big role, she notes.

“We seem to live in a culture that doesn’t value sleep in the way that it should,” she says.
“Our lifestyles are more hurried and more worried and a lot of busy, busy activity is falling into the time of day when children really need brain rest.
“We’re focusing on high productivity and we know that children match us. They match our choice and our behaviour.
“It’s really important to create a clear delineation between the busyness of the day and nighttime when children can wind down, lean into our care and talk about whatever worries have arisen throughout the day.”

(Natalie Holdway/CBC)

Some of her tips include:

  • Cut back on children’s screen time an hour and a half before bed.
  • If nighttime wetting is a problem, help keep kids dry by using absorbent bedtime pants.
  • Address dietary issues. Caffeine and sugar late in the day makes it very difficult for kids to sleep at night.
  • Practice ways to calm the mind and body in order to facilitate sleep.
  • Communicate with teachers, day care providers or other caregivers about how the child is functioning through the day to see if a lack of sleep is causing concern.


CBC News      Posted: May 17, 2017 
source; www.cbc.ca

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Does TV Hinder Kindergarten-Readiness?

Lower-income kids harmed more by excess screen time than affluent children, study finds

One big factor holding kids back as they enter kindergarten may sit in the family living room: the television.

New research suggests that youngsters who watch a lot of TV – or other screens – are less ready for school than those who don’t.

“Given that studies have reported that children often watch more than the recommended amount, and the current prevalence of technology such as smartphones and tablets, engaging in screen time may be more frequent now than ever before,” lead author Andrew Ribner said in a New York University news release. He’s a doctoral candidate in NYU’s department of applied psychology.

In the new study, Ribner’s team tracked the school-readiness of 800-plus kindergarten students, testing their thinking, memory, social-emotional, math and literacy skills.


Watching TV for more than a couple of hours a day was associated with lower skills, according to the study. The finding was especially strong among low-income children.

The researchers suggest that parents limit children’s TV time to less than two hours a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends less than an hour a day of TV viewing for children aged 2 to 5.

Ribner’s group couldn’t say why poorer children seemed harmed more than richer kids by excess TV time. However, the researchers noted that earlier studies have found that kids in higher-income homes watch more educational programming and less entertainment. Affluent parents may also have more time to watch TV with their children, discussing and helping them understand what they’re viewing.

“Our results suggest that the circumstances that surround child screen time can influence its detrimental effects on learning outcomes,” said study co-author Caroline Fitzpatrick, of the University of Sainte-Anne in Canada.

The study was published March 1 in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

By Robert Preidt      HealthDay Reporter    WebMD News from HealthDay
WEDNESDAY, March 1, 2017 (HealthDay News)
source:     New York University, news release, March 1, 2017      www.webmd.com


What Is Attachment Theory?

Introduction to attachment theory in developmental psychology, including Bowlby and Ainsworth’s contributions, evaluation and criticisms of attachment theory.

Attachment theory is a concept in developmental psychology that concerns the importance of “attachment” in regards to personal development. Specifically, it makes the claim that the ability for an individual to form an emotional and physical “attachment” to another person gives a sense of stability and security necessary to take risks, branch out, and grow and develop as a personality. Naturally, attachment theory is a broad idea with many expressions, and the best understanding of it can be had by looking at several of those expressions in turn.

John Bowlby

Psychologist John Bowlby was the first to coin the term. His work in the late 60s established the precedent that childhood development depended heavily upon a child’s ability to form a strong relationship with “at least one primary caregiver”. Generally speaking, this is one of the parents.

Bowlby’s studies in childhood development and “temperament” led him to the conclusion that a strong attachment to a caregiver provides a necessary sense of security and foundation. Without such a relationship in place, Bowlby found that a great deal of developmental energy is expended in the search for stability and security. In general, those without such attachments are fearful and are less willing to seek out and learn from new experiences. By contrast, a child with a strong attachment to a parent knows that they have “back-up” so to speak, and thusly tend to be more adventurous and eager to have new experiences (which are of course vital to learning and development).

There is some basis in observational psychology here. The baby who is attached strongly to a caregiver has several of his or her most immediate needs met and accounted for. Consequently, they are able to spend a great deal more time observing and interacting with their environments. Thusly, their development is facilitated.

For Bowlby, the role of the parent as caregiver grows over time to meet the particular needs of the attached child. Early on, that role is to be attached to and provide constant support and security during the formative years. Later, that role is to be available as the child needs periodic help during their excursions into the outside world. 1

Mary Ainsworth

Mary Ainsworth would develop many of the ideas set forth by Bowlby in her studies. In particular, she identified the existence of what she calls “attachment behavior”, examples of behavior that are demonstrated by insecure children in hopes of establishing or re-establishing an attachment to a presently absent caregiver. Since this behavior occurs uniformly in children, it is a compelling argument for the existence of “innate” or instinctual behavior in the human animal.

The study worked by looking at a broad cross-section of children with varying degrees of attachment to their parents or caregivers from strong and healthy attachments to weak and tenuous bonds. The children were then separated from their caregivers and their responses were observed. The children with strong attachments were relatively calm, seeming to be secure in the belief that their caregivers would return shortly, whereas the children with weak attachments would cry and demonstrate great distress under they were restored to their parents.

Later in the same study, children were exposed to intentionally stressful situations, during which nearly all of them began to exhibit particular behaviors that were effective in attracting the attention of their caregivers – a keen example of attachment behavior. 2

J. A. Hampton  Topical Press Agency   Getty Images

Hazan and Shaver

Early on, one of the primary limitations of attachment theory was that it had only really been studied in the context of young children. While studies of children are often instrumental in the field of developmental psychology, that field is ideally supposed to address the development of the entire human organism, including the stage of adulthood. In the 1980s, Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver were able to garner a lot of attention, then, when they turned attachment theory on adult relationships. 3 

In their studies, they looked at a number of couples, examining the nature of the attachments between them, and then observed how those couples reacted to various stressors and stimuli. In the case of adults, it would seem that a strong attachment is still quite important. For example, in cases where the adults had a weak attachment, there were feelings of inadequacy and a lack of intimacy on the part of both parties. When attachments were too strong, there were issues with co-dependency. The relationships functioned best when both parties managed to balance intimacy with independence. Much as is the case with developing children, the ideal situation seemed to be an attachment that functioned as a secure base from which to reach out and gain experience in the world.

Criticisms of Attachment Theory

One of the most common criticisms of attachment theory is that non-Western societies tend to offer up compelling counter-examples. For instance, in Papua New Guinea or Uganda, the idea of a child being intimately attached to a caregiver is somewhat alien, and child-rearing duties are more evenly distributed among a broader group of people. Still, “well-adjusted” members of society are produced, indicating that, at least in these societies, some other mechanism is acting in the place of the attachments that are so necessary for Western children.


Attachment theory states that a strong emotional and physical attachment to at least one primary caregiver is critical to personal development.

John Bowlby first coined the term as a result of his studies involving the developmental psychology of children from various backgrounds.

Mary Ainsworth conducted this research, discovering the existence of “attachment behavior” – behavior manifested for the purpose of creating attachment during times when a child feels confused or stressed.

Hazan and Shaver (1987) used the “Love Quiz” to demonstrate the applicability of attachment theory to adult romantic relationships.

Attachment theory has had a profound influence upon child care policies, as well as principles of basic clinical practice for children.

Critics of attachment theory point out the lack of parental attachment in many non-Western societies.

1 Bowlby, John. Attachment and Loss. 1969.
2 Ainsworth, M. “Infancy in Uganda: Infant Care and the Growth of Love.” Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1967.
3 Hazan, C. & Shaver, P. “Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationship.” Psychological Inquiry. 5 1-22, 1994.

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Childhood Obesity: Sizing Up Our Kids

A new Senate committee report on the obesity crisis in Canada was released this week. It includes 21 recommendations to combat the high rate of obesity, including a ban on food and drink advertising aimed at children, a tax on sugary drinks and creating government subsidies for healthy food.

Feeding a child can be simple—in the beginning, at least. Weight gain is celebrated: We smother plump bellies with raspberry kisses, gush over dimpled knees and happily dole out extra helpings. After all, food is love; it’s warmth; it’s family. Until suddenly it’s not. Baby fat blossoms into a fleshy frame. Bullies take their toll. Maybe food becomes a solace, consumed mindlessly while staring into screens, turning flesh into flab. As a parent, do you even see it?

Many of us don’t. Parental bias can stack its own mental blocks. In the past year, three major studies have concluded most parents fail to recognize when their child is overweight. One study from New York University, involving nearly 7,000 kids, found the vast majority of parents felt that even their obese children were “just about the right weight.”

Yet it’s also true that overweight kids don’t stand out as they once did. Children all over the world are heavier than they ever have been. As the World Health Organization reported in January, 41 million children under age five are now overweight or obese—in 1990, the number was 31 million—a spike blamed largely on the consumption of processed foods and not enough physical activity. In Canada, the rate has tripled over the past 30 years; almost a third of children between ages five and 17 are overweight or obese.

“It’s quite natural that parents don’t recognize it, because we assess ourselves by comparison and look at everyone else,” says Tom Warshawski, a paediatrician and chair of the Childhood Obesity Foundation in Kelowna, BC. But experts agree this is a worrisome gap in perception, as parents who don’t see a weight problem are unlikely to help a child overcome it, and there’s no sugar-coating the end result: Most children will not grow out of it. “If you are obese at 16,” says Warshawski, “there’s an 80 percent chance you will be obese as an adult.”

With obesity comes a long list of life-threatening ailments: hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, bone conditions and many more. Some scientists predict that with the record-high rates of childhood obesity, today’s kids will be the first generation to live shorter lives than their parents. Last November, the American Heart Association reported that obese kids as young as eight are showing signs of heart disease. Says Warshawski: “We are setting our children up for a life of ill health.”

Of course, it’s a prognosis no parent wants to hear. Yet even if you recognize that your child is overweight, figuring out what to do next can be daunting. There’s no magic potion to make pounds disappear, and most obesity research has focused on adults. In fact, helping a child reach or maintain a healthy weight may be one of the thorniest challenges of modern parenting.

It’s hard enough for adults to lose weight, and we presumably have more patience, reason and willpower. No one wants to police the pantry or make a kid count calories. In most families, fat is the other F-word. So how—in a conflicted world that’s thin-obsessed but awash in junk food—do you manage a child’s weight without creating lifelong anxieties around eating and body image?

Very carefully, says Laurie Clark, an Ottawa psychologist at the Centre for Healthy Active Living (CHAL) at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. At CHAL, there’s a team of specialists who help children with severe obesity and their families improve their health through behavioural and lifestyle changes. But none of it is set in the context of losing weight or slimming down—rather, it’s all about getting fit and healthy.

When kids are just starting to develop their relationship with food and themselves, Clark says it’s important they hear that healthy bodies come in different shapes and sizes, and that the goal of making healthier lifestyle choices is “to be active and happy in our bodies.” So instead of talking about calories or diets, which “sets kids up to be preoccupied with that,” she says, discuss choices in terms of good health and overall happiness. “If a child is functioning well and has no other health issues, a parent needs to step back and say, How are we running our household?”

The most critical step in managing a child’s weight, experts say, is to recognize that the issue is not about the child—it’s about the family. When lifestyle changes are the best (and usually the only) available treatment for a kid carrying excess weight, those changes have to be adopted by everyone.

“You may see the problem with one child, but weight is a reflection of genetics and environment,” Warshawski says. “So it’s actually a problem with the whole family that’s just showing up in this one kid.”

About 16 different genes impact an individual’s propensity to gain weight, Warshawski says, and you can see the effect even in infancy. One baby will be content after four ounces of milk, while another needs three more to feel full. “That will continue into childhood, but now the food you’re filling him with is rich in fats and sugars. So one child can eat whatever she wants and never gain, while others just see food and pack on the pounds. That’s the way genetics interplays with the environment.”

But unlike genes, the environment is something parents can generally control, especially in the younger years, when we hold more sway than peers and when the chances are highest of forming healthy lifelong habits. Yet studies suggest that many families have a long way to go: Most kids—seven out of 10 of those between ages four and nine—do not eat the recommended five-serving minimum of fruits and vegetables each day, and only seven percent of five- to 11-year-old kids get the daily recommended minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity.

Which is why, in 2013, Warshawski’s foundation helped launch a family-based program in BC called MEND, short for Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do It! Started in the UK in 2004, the program takes a hands-on approach to helping parents and kids with weight issues become fitter, healthier and happier by teaching them how to make healthy food choices and live more active lives. Run out of local recreation centres, the free 10-week program involves at least 20 visits with a team of specialists. It also includes a three-month membership to the community rec centre and a tour of a grocery store to learn how to shop healthily.

Obesity & Children
Ed.’s Note: A new Senate committee report
on the obesity crisis in Canada was released this week.
It includes 21 recommendations to combat the high rate of obesity,
including a ban on food and drink advertising aimed at children,
a tax on sugary drinks and creating government subsidies for healthy food.

It’s a big commitment, says Warshawski, but studies suggest it can make a difference in reducing weight and body mass index. However, he cautions, it may not work for everyone: “I saw a family yesterday, and they are all still gaining weight; another is doing really well. It’s not one-size-fits-all.” What is key, he says, is that “the whole family has to buy into the lifestyle solutions for this to work—if you get the habits right, you’ll get the body that’s right for you.”

At the CHAL program in Ottawa, dietitian Anna Aylett says that any attempts to change the lifestyle of just one child are likely to backfire. “I often see families where they have started to restrict the overweight children by not giving them dessert or treats, but it can lead to food sneaking,” she says. There may be genetic differences in a family that make one child prone to gaining weight, but the food available has to be the same for everyone in the household, Aylett says. “You have to have the same rules for everyone.”

Doing otherwise can make your kid feel unfairly singled out and cause her to associate feelings of guilt and shame with eating. Instead, experts say, it’s up to parents to create a healthy food environment for everyone and then practise a clear division of responsibility on food matters—parents decide what, when and where the family eats; children choose how much they want to eat.

If a child, however, seems to suddenly gain weight, there could be underlying forces at work. Stasia Hadjiyannakis, a paediatric endocrinologist and director of the CHAL program, says parents should find out if there are genetic factors that could be influencing weight or whether kids are eating in private, skipping meals or not getting enough sleep. Screens, especially in the bedroom, she notes, can interfere with sleep and lead to hormonal changes “that can impact your appetite and increase the risk for obesity.”

Emotions can also figure powerfully into food relationships. After all, the idea that people eat their feelings has been around longer than ice cream binges have been associated with breakups. Alex Jadad, for instance, a renowned University of Toronto physician and founder of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, learned the hard way that unhappiness was at the root of his 10-year-old daughter’s overeating.

Jadad and his wife hadn’t even realized their daughter Alia had gone from chubby to obese. “I think sometimes familiarity breeds blindness,” says Jadad. But then she told them that she was being bullied at school because of her weight. “They called her ‘Blue Marshmallow,’ because of her blue jacket…. They taunted her with chocolate,” he says. “That’s how we found out [she was obese]—we didn’t realize it ourselves. You know your child, you see her all the time, and she’s perfect—and she was perfect.”

Only when they took Alia to the doctor did they discover that school bullies were not the true source of her sadness—as Alia diagnosed herself: “She said, ‘I’m jealous.’” Jadad explained that his wife’s niece had recently come to live with them, and Alia felt displaced. “She was overeating to compensate. Weight was the issue, but it was a manifestation of other things.”

Alia’s revelation marked the beginning of a long journey—one the Jadad family took together. They bought bicycles, educated themselves about nutrition and eliminated most sugar from their diet. They even grocery shopped together, making a game of it to find packaged products that did not carry one of the 50 sugar synonyms on their labels. (It was almost impossible, he says.)

Alia, now a grown woman, did eventually lose weight, but more important, says Jadad, is that his daughter and the whole family created a new and healthier—and happier—lifestyle for themselves. Alia also switched to a new school, where she thrived and regained her self-confidence.

The point, he says, is that “it’s not an individual’s responsibility to solve—it’s not ‘Oh, there’s something wrong with you.’ It wasn’t her fault, and it cannot be a case of telling your child, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t eat that. Don’t eat this.’” It’s about getting the family back to fundamentals, says Jadad, who is a founding member of the Canadian Obesity Network.

Blaming individuals for being overweight only contributes to the discrimination and isolation they already face. “What makes this problem so monumental,” Jadad says, “is that it’s one of those rare cases where the stigma alone can become a public health problem because of the toll it takes on mental health.” In fact, Warshawski notes, kids who are obese rate the quality of their lives lower than children undergoing cancer therapy.

What’s important is that children feel good about themselves by making healthy choices. “We know a lot comes down to the way our body was designed, and there’s a strong biologic response to weight loss —that’s why it’s often regained. Ideally, prevention happens early on,” says Hadjiyannakis. For example, encouraging kids to move, play and be physically active is a huge step in the right direction.

“I think it’s about shifting the outcome we’re celebrating,” she says. “So we might not see a big change in body weight, but if we have patients that find a new physical activity they love—that’s a success, and that’s something people can control, more than a number on a scale.”

By the numbers

The MEND program encourages families to follow the daily 5-2-1-0 formula: five servings of fruits and veggies; no more than two hours of screen time; at least one hour of activity and zero sugary drinks.

Taking measure

The body mass index isn’t a fail-proof way to diagnose childhood obesity—if your kid is muscular, for instance, the results might be skewed. That said, tracking BMI is a good starting point to help you and your paediatrician monitor your kid’s growth.

Today’s Parent    Carolyn Abraham    2016-03-02
source: www.msn.com


How Emotional Eating Is a Habit That Can Start in Childhood

The way we feed children may be just as important as what we feed them.

By Claire Farrow, Emma Haycraft, Jackie Blissett / The Conversation May 16, 2016

Food can be an extremely effective tool for calming young children. If they are bored on a long car journey, or fed up with being in the pushchair, many parents use snack foods to distract them for a little longer. Or if children are upset because they have hurt themselves or want something they cannot have, the offer of something sweet is often used to “make them feel better.”

But what are the effects of using food as a tool to deal with emotions like boredom or sadness? Does it turn children into adults who cannot cope with being bored or upset without a sweet snack? Probably not. There certainly isn’t any evidence to suggest that occasionally resorting to the biscuit tin will affect children in this way. But what if we do it on a regular basis? What happens when sweets and biscuits become the tool for rewarding children for good behavior and doing well? Or if food is consistently withheld as a punishment?

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that using food as a tool or as a reward regularly with children may be associated with a greater risk of emotional eating. In a recent study we explored whether children as young as three preferred to play with toys or eat snack foods if they were feeling stressed.

All the children had just eaten lunch so were not hungry, and were then observed to see what they did in a four minute period – eat or play with toys – whilst waiting for someone to look for a missing final piece of a jigsaw. Children aged three to five did not tend to eat much more in comparison to a control group. However, in a similar experiment when the children were two years older, we found many of the children would eat foods when they were not hungry (emotional overeating), rather than play.

It appears that somewhere between the ages of four and six, the tendency to emotionally overeat may increase in many children. And parents who told us they frequently used food as a reward (or its withdrawal as a punishment) when their children were younger, were more likely to have children who emotionally overate when they were aged five to seven. This suggests that frequent use of food as a reward or punishment in that younger period may predict a greater chance of children using food as an emotional tool later in life.


Of course you may be thinking that your own exposure to “reward” foods hasn’t had any lasting impact on your current eating behavior. But it is worth considering how society has changed in the last few decades to market and promote high calorie foods to children. Many people believe we live in an “obesogenic society,” where our environment has evolved to promote obesity rather than support healthy eating. The fact that around a third of English school children are overweight or obese is testament to this. With grab-bag sized bags of chocolates being promoted to children, supersized portions in fast-food outlets and even clothes shops selling sweets at children’s eye level in queues, it is clear our children need to adapt to cope with constantly being marketed large portions of high calorie foods.

So how can we navigate this complex environment, juggling the balance of making food enjoyable and sociable, whilst helping children to achieve a healthy and balanced diet? Sweet foods are a fun part of life and not necessarily something we want to remove. Even if we eliminated all links between food, emotion and reward in the home, the reality is that society is full of situations where children will experience being given calorie dense foods as a reward or as part of celebrations. It would be a pity to take away the joy that children find in party bags, birthday cakes, Easter eggs and other celebration foods. Perhaps thinking about not just what foods we give children, but also how and why we give certain foods to children at particular times is a good way to start.

Teaching children how to manage their appetites, to eat if they are hungry and to stop if they are full, is an important lesson which is often overlooked.

Eating patterns can usually be tracked across life, so children who learn to use food as a tool to deal with emotional distress early on are much more likely to follow a similar pattern of eating later in adult life. Around three quarters of children who are obese will continue to be obese as adults. Emotional overeating is one factor that has been linked not only with overeating and obesity, but also with the development of eating disorders. To combat this, the way we feed children, and the lessons we provide about how to use food, may be just as important as what we feed them.

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Childhood ADHD linked to secondhand smoking


(Reuters) – Children exposed to tobacco smoke at home are up to three times more likely to have attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) as unexposed kids, according to a new study from Spain.

The association was stronger for kids with one or more hours of secondhand smoke exposure every day, the authors found. And the results held when researchers accounted for parents’ mental health and other factors.

“We showed a significant and substantial dose–response association between (secondhand smoke) exposure in the home and a higher frequency of global mental problems,” the authors write in Tobacco Control.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two of every five children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke regularly.

Alicia Padron of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida and colleagues in Spain analyzed data from the 2011 to 2012 Spanish National Health Interview Survey, in which parents of 2,357 children ages four to 12 reported the amount of time their children were exposed to secondhand smoke every day.

The parents also filled out questionnaires designed to evaluate their children’s mental health. According to the results, about eight percent of the kids had a probable mental disorder.

About seven percent of the kids were exposed to secondhand smoke for less than one hour per day, and 4.5 percent were exposed for an hour or more each day.

After taking the parent’s mental health, family structure and socioeconomic status into consideration, children who were exposed to secondhand smoke for less than one hour per day were 50 percent more likely to have some mental disorder compared to kids not exposed at all.

And children who were habitually exposed to secondhand smoke for an hour or more each day were close to three times more likely to have a mental disorder.

In addition, kids exposed less than one hour per day were twice as likely to have ADHD as kids who weren’t exposed, and children exposed for an hour or more on a daily basis were over three times more likely to have ADHD.


“The association between secondhand smoke and global mental problems was mostly due to the impact of secondhand smoke on the attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder,” the authors write.

The study looks at a single point in time and cannot prove that secondhand smoke exposure causes mental health problems, the study team cautions.

Frank Bandiera, a researcher with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who was not involved in the study, liked that the researchers “controlled for parents’ mental health in the new study because that could be a confounder.”

But, he added, the study might be limited because, although the questionnaires are thought to be valid, the mental disorders were not actually diagnosed by physicians.

“We’re not sure if it’s causal or not,” Bandiera told Reuters Health. “I think (the research) is still in the early stages and the findings are inconclusive.”

But, he said, since secondhand hand smoke has been related to a lot of physical diseases, parents should avoid smoking around their kids.

“We need to sort it out more, so we’re not sure yet, but just as a precaution, I don’t think parents should smoke at home – they should keep their kids away from secondhand smoke,” Bandiera said.

Lucy Popova, from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, said there is a lot of evidence about the harms of secondhand smoke on physical wellbeing.

“But research on effects of secondhand smoke on mental health have been really just emerging and this study really contributes to this growing body of evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke in children might be responsible for cognitive and behavioral problems,” she said.

Popova, who wasn’t involved in the study, said no amount of secondhand smoke is safe – any exposure is bad.

“So parents should not expose their children – the best thing to do is quit,” she said. “And this will not only not expose their children to the secondhand smoke, but will also let them enjoy their life with their children longer.”

SOURCE: bmj.co/1ajZCX4 Tobacco Control, online March 25, 2015           Reuters.com