Varying Patterns of BMI Increase in Sex and Birth Cohorts of Korean Adults


Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health and Institute of Health and Environment, Seoul National University, Jongno-gu Yeongun-dong 28, Seoul 110-460, Republic of Korea. E-mail:


Objective: The Korean population has recently experienced a rapid increase in obesity associated with lifestyle changes arising from economic growth. We examined trends in BMI by analyzing sex-specific birth cohorts using 3,400,727 measurements from 1,662,477 Korean adults.

Research Methods and Procedures: Birth cohort data were collected from the employees of government organizations and schools and their dependents, 20 to 65 years of age, who participated in health examinations provided by the Korean National Health Insurance Corporation in 1992, 1996, and 2000.

Results: The prevalence of obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) was 0.8% among men and 0.3% among women in 1992, but by 2000, it had increased 2.5-fold to 2.0% in men and 2.3-fold to 0.7% in women. Over the 8-year period, the mean BMI increased 0.8 kg/m2 in men and 0.3 kg/m2 in women. The rate of BMI increase over the 8 years varied markedly among the sex-specific birth cohorts, with the steepest slopes representing the youngest men (0.2 kg/m2 per year).

Discussion: National health promotion activities should target younger men to prevent an increase in obesity-related morbidity and mortality.