In a recent study published in PLOS Medicine, researchers examined the relationship between body mass index (BMI) levels and socioeconomic status (SES) across the life course. It was determined that low childhood SES was associated with higher adulthood BMIs, especially among women. Low adulthood SES was also associated with higher adulthood BMIs, once again, more so in women than men.
Body mass index (BMI) is a method to evaluate body fat. Having a high BMI, (ie. higher level of body fat), is associated with an increased risk of developing other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Social influences, such as socioeconomic status (SES), can also increase an individual’s risk for developing poor health outcomes and high BMIs. As obesity levels continue to rise, a group of researchers sought to explore the life-long influences of SES on BMI levels.
Researchers used data from three groups of British participants—those from the 1946 MRC National Survey of Health and Development, the 1958 National Child Development Study, and the 1970 British Cohort Study, to access data on childhood and adulthood SES data, and BMI scores. In total, 22,810 participants were included in this study.
The results indicate that childhood SES significantly influenced adulthood BMI scores in these cohorts. Low childhood SES was associated with higher BMIs, especially in women. In adulthood, lower SES was also correlated to higher BMIs, and once again, more so in women than men.
The results of this study indicate that there is a correlation between socioeconomic status and obesity, with the effects of low SES having far-reaching consequences into adulthood. The researchers suggest that future initiatives to curb the obesity epidemic should be mindful of adverse social influences that can contribute to the development of obesity. In this way, addressing social inequalities in obesity prevention and intervention may yield better health outcomes in the future.
Written By: Nicole Pinto, HBSc