The costs of publication of this article were defrayed, in part, by the payment of page charges. This article must, therefore, be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.
Trends in the Association between Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in U.S. Adults: 1971 to 2000
Article first published online: 6 SEP 2012
2004 North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO)
Volume 12, Issue 10, pages 1622–1632, October 2004
How to Cite
Zhang, Q. and Wang, Y. (2004), Trends in the Association between Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in U.S. Adults: 1971 to 2000. Obesity Research, 12: 1622–1632. doi: 10.1038/oby.2004.202
- Issue published online: 6 SEP 2012
- Article first published online: 6 SEP 2012
- Received for review March 02, 2004; Accepted in final form July 23, 2004
- socioeconomic status;
Objective: To study the secular trends in the disparity of obesity across socioeconomic status (SES) groups among U.S. adults.
Research Methods and Procedures: We used national representative data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted in 1971 to 1974, 1976 to 1980, 1988 to 1994, and 1999 to 2000 from 28, 543 adults 20 to 60 years old. Obesity was defined based on BMI calculated using measured weight and height. Trends in the relationship between obesity and education levels were analyzed controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity.
Results: The disparity in obesity across SES (less than high school, high school, and college or above to indicate low, medium, and high SES, respectively) has decreased over the past 3 decades. In National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys I (1971 to 1974), there was as much as a 50% relative difference in the obesity prevalence across the three groups, but by 1999 to 2000, it decreased to 14%. This trend was more pronounced in women. The trends of diminishing disparities in obesity were also revealed by our logistic and linear regression analyses. The odds ratio converged to 1 from the 1970s to 2000. In most sociodemographic groups, the relationship between BMI and SES (coefficients) has been weakened over time.
Discussion: The association between SES and obesity has been weakened over the past 3 decades, when the prevalence of obesity increased dramatically. There are considerable variations in the changes in the associations across gender and ethnic groups. Our findings suggest that individual characteristics are not likely the main cause of the current obesity epidemic in the U.S., whereas social-environmental factors play an important role. Strategies for obesity prevention and management should target all SES groups from a societal perspective.