Public Release: 

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

Poverty in childhood raises risk for obesity in later life

Wiley

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."

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This study is published in the January/February 2009 issue of Public Health Nursing. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact professionalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

Pamela J. Salsberry is affiliated with The Ohio State University and can be reached for questions at salsberry.1@osu.edu.

Public Health Nursing publishes empirical research reports, program evaluations, and case reports focused on populations at risk across the lifespan. The journal also prints articles related to developments in practice, education of public health nurses, theory development, methodological innovations, legal, ethical, and public policy issues in public health, and the history of public health nursing throughout the world. While the primary readership of the Journal is North American, the journal is expanding its mission to address global public health concerns of interest to nurses.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.wiley-blackwell.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

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