Environmental factors as well as greater access to care in the last two decades are partly to blame for a spike in obesity, asthma, behavioral disorders and other chronic conditions in U.S. children, researchers at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital for Children report.
In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Mass General team found that chronic conditions in kids more than doubled over the evaluation period, from less than 13 percent in 1994 to 26.6 percent in 2006. Childhood obesity jumped from 13.3 percent to nearly 16 percent in the same time frame.
The researchers tracked three groups of children in six-year periods, beginning in 1988 and ending in 2006, interviewing mothers about their kids' physical and emotional states. They then classified chronic conditions into four categories: asthma, obesity, behavioral/learning disorders; and other physical ailments.
"We found that prevalence of a chronic condition at any point during the study period was very high and increased over time," the researchers write in JAMA. However, they note that chronic conditions tend to dissipate more frequently than similar diseases in adults and that their data supports other studies showing that childhood obesity has plateaued in the U.S.