Poverty-based obesity more prevalent in women than men

Adolescent females living in economically disadvantaged families are more likely to become overweight or obese than their male counterparts, according to research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, tracked weight gain patterns of more than 10,000 individuals from 1957 to 1993.

Findings revealed a significant link between economic disadvantage and high body mass at age 18 years, and a high risk of obesity at age 54 years. The link was more consistent in women than men, the researchers found.

Tetyana Pudrovska, PhD, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, faculty associate in the Population Research Center and lead author of the study, said obese women are less likely to secure resources including education, occupational prestige and earnings. These social disadvantages further increase the risk of obesity in adulthood, she noted.

“Girls born into disadvantaged families are exposed to a chain of low socioeconomic status and high body mass,” Pudrovska stated in a news release. “Women are more strongly impacted than men by adverse effects of low socioeconomic status on obesity and by adverse effects of obesity on status attainment.”

The findings highlight a need to address negative health effects of socioeconomic disadvantage, Pudrovska said. She added more public awareness of weight-based discrimination in the labor market should be pursued.

For more information:

Pudrovska T. J Health Soc Behav. 2014: doi:10.1177/0022146514544525.

Disclosure: Pudrovska has no relevant financial disclosures.

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