Reducing socioeconomic disparities in weight-related health is a public health priority. The purpose of this paper was to examine 10-year longitudinal patterns in overweight and weight-related behaviors from adolescence to young adulthood as a function of family-level socioeconomic status (SES) and educational attainment. Project EAT (Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults) followed a diverse sample of 2287 adolescents from 1999 to 2009. Mixed-effects regression tested longitudinal trends in overweight, fast food, breakfast skipping, physical inactivity, and screen use by family-level SES. The influence of subsequent educational attainment in young adulthood was examined. Results revealed that the prevalence of overweight increased significantly from adolescence to young adulthood with the greatest change seen in those from low SES (mean change = 30.7%, 95% CI = 25.6%-35.9%) as compared to high SES families (mean change = 21.7%, 95% CI = 18.2%-25.1%). Behavioral changes from adolescence to young adulthood also differed by SES background; the prevalence of frequent fast food intake (≥. 3 times/week) increased most dramatically in those from low SES (mean change = 6%, 95% CI = 0.5%-11%) as compared to high SES families (mean change = - 1.2%, 95% CI = - 5.2%-2.9%). Overall trends suggest that a higher educational attainment mitigates the negative impacts of a low SES background. These findings suggest that continued effort is needed to ensure that public health strategies addressing obesity and related behaviors reach adolescents and young adults from low SES backgrounds and do not contribute to widening socioeconomic gaps in weight-related health.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by Grant Number R01HL084064 from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (PI: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or the National Institutes of Health. AWW was supported by a fellowship from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.
- Health behavior
- Socioeconomic status
- Young adult