Childhood and adult socioeconomics may impact adult BMI

Both childhood and adult socioeconomic position continue to impact BMI in adulthood, according to data published in PLOS Medicine.

David Bann, PhD, research officer at the University College of London Institute of Education, United Kingdom, and colleagues examined data for 22,810 people enrolled in three British birth cohort studies: the 1946 MRC National Survey of Health and Development, which included people aged 20 years to 64 years; the 1958 National Child Development Study, which included people aged 23 years to 50 years; and the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study, which included people aged 26 years to 42 years.

Data were collected on each person’s socioeconomic position. As children, socioeconomic position was based on the occupation of the participant’s father; as adults, socioeconomic position was based on the person’s own occupation. Information was collected on BMI throughout adulthood.

According to a press release, lower socioeconomic position was associated with higher adult BMI for both genders and in all cohorts. Further, this association increased with age in that the older someone got, the greater the influence of childhood socioeconomic position on the person’s BMI.

Findings also showed the association between adult socioeconomic position and BMI was generally stronger for women than men. Among those born in 1946, women aged 42 years to 43 years in the lowest socioeconomic group had a BMI 2 kg/m2 higher than those in the highest socioeconomic group. Among those born in 1970, that difference increased to 3.9 kg/m2.

“The persistence of inequalities in BMI throughout adulthood across different generations suggests that new and/or improved strategies are required to reduce them,” the authors wrote the release. “Given our findings of progressively widening BMI inequalities across adulthood, and the fact that BMI tends to track across life, interventions may be most effective when initiated as early in life as possible.”


Bann D, et al. PLoS Med. 2017;

Disclosures: The researchers report the project is part of a collaborative research programmer entitled “Cohorts and Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources.” Bann is partly funded by the ESRC (grant reference ES/M008584/1), but has no involvement in funding decisions from ESRC. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

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