Weight Gain Trends Across Sociodemographic Groups in the United States

Published in: American Journal of Public Health, v. 95, no. 9, Sep. 2005, p. 1602-1606

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2004

by Khoa Dang Truong, Roland Sturm

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OBJECTIVES: To better understand health disparities, the authors compared US weight gain trends across sociodemographic groups between 1986 and 2002. METHODS: The authors analyzed mean and 80th-percentile body mass index (BMI), calculated from self-reported weight and height, for subpopulations defined by education, relative income, race/ethnicity, and gender. Data were from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a random-digit-dialed telephone survey (total sample=1.88 million adult respondents). RESULTS: Each sociodemographic group experienced generally similar weight gains. The authors found no statistically significant difference in increase in mean BMI by educational attainment, except that individuals with a college degree gained less weight than did others. The lowest-income group gained as much weight on average as the highest-income group, but lowest-income heavier individuals (80th percentile of BMI) gained weight faster than highest-income heavier individuals. The authors found no differences across racial/ethnic groups except that non-Hispanic Blacks gained more weight than other groups. Women gained more weight than men. CONCLUSIONS: The authors found fewer differences, especially by relative income and education, in weight gain across subpopulations than they had expected. Women and non-Hispanic Blacks gained weight faster than other groups.

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