BOSTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. children who live in homes where parents have to decide on whether to buy heat or food have more risk of being hospitalized, researchers said.
Lead author John Cook of the Boston Medical Center said that a household experiences "energy insecurity" when it lacks consistent access to the amount or the kind of energy needed for a healthy and safe life.
In the cross-sectional study, published in Pediatrics, found that of the 9,721 children taken to emergency or primary care departments at five large urban hospitals, 34 percent experienced moderate or severe energy insecurity.
The children in households with moderate or severe energy insecurity had one-third greater odds of being reported by their caretakers as being in fair or poor health than children in energy-secure households. The odds of a child from a moderately insecure household being hospitalized since birth were 22 percent greater than a child from an energy-secure home.
"In addition to direct effects of unregulated environmental temperatures on infant and child health, our data suggests that household food insecurity associated with energy insecurity can also adversely affect children's nutritional status and health," Cook said in a statement.