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Economic status affects obesity rates in Mexican-American and white women

Columbus, OH January 14, 2009 Obesity continues to increase for women in the United States, particularly among African-American and Mexican-American women. Between the ages of 35-44, there are approximately 3.3 million white women, 1.4 million African-American women, and 575,000 Mexican-American women who are obese. A new study published in the journal Public Health Nursing reveals that there is an increased risk for midlife obesity among Mexican-American and White women who were poor as children and adults. However, this did not hold true for African-American women.

In the first study to examine the association between child and adult economic factors on midlife obesity for Mexican-American women, study author Pamela J. Salsberry, R.N., Ph.D., of the College of Nursing and Patricia B. Reagan, Ph.D., from the Department of Economics, both of The Ohio State University, utilized data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. The sample consisted of Mexican-Americans women, white women, and African-American women who were followed for 15 years.

Parent education was the economic indicator used for childhood economic status, while the participant's own education and income were used for adult economic status. Relationship between midlife obesity, economic indicator and race/ethnic group were studied.

Results show that there was an increased risk for midlife obesity in Mexican-American women who had a disadvantaged economic status measured during childhood and later in life. These economic effects on adult obesity were similar to those found for white women, but not African-American women. Few economic influences on obesity at midlife were found for African-American women.

Surprisingly, among Mexican-American women, high school drop outs were less likely to be obese than those with higher education. Also, individuals whose parents were born in the U.S. were more likely to be obese in childhood and adulthood than women whose parents were born in Mexico, due in part to changes in acculturation.

"Intervention programs must be tailored to the audience," the authors conclude. "Public health efforts to reduce child obesity in disadvantaged populations are an important long term strategy for health promotion of adults."


Contact: Amy Molnar

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