Trends in Body Mass Index in Adolescence and Young Adulthood in the United States: 1959–2002

Lee, Hedwig E.; Lee, Dohoon; Guo, Guang; & Harris, Kathleen Mullan. (2011). Trends in Body Mass Index in Adolescence and Young Adulthood in the United States: 1959–2002. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49(6), 601-8. PMCID: PMC3228354

Lee, Hedwig E.; Lee, Dohoon; Guo, Guang; & Harris, Kathleen Mullan. (2011). Trends in Body Mass Index in Adolescence and Young Adulthood in the United States: 1959–2002. Journal of Adolescent Health, 49(6), 601-8. PMCID: PMC3228354

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Purpose: This study examined trends in body mass index (BMI) during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood by gender and race, using national data from the United States spanning for >40 years from 1959 and 2002. Although past research has investigated BMI trends separately in childhood/adolescence and adulthood, this study uniquely focused on the transition to adulthood (12–26 years) to identify the emergence of the obesity epidemic during this critical life-stage.

Methods: Longitudinal and cross-sectional data were obtained from four nationally representative surveys: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, National Health Interview Survey, and National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY79 and NLSY97). The analysis tracked age trends in BMI by time, which allowed for the examination of how BMI changed during the transition to adulthood and whether the patterns of change varied by period. Data best suited for trend analysis were identified. Age trends in BMI by gender and race were graphed and regression analysis was used to test for significant differences in the trends using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

Results: BMI increased sharply in the adolescent ages, beginning in the 1990s and among young adults around 2000. This age pattern of BMI increase was more dramatic among females and blacks, particularly black females.

Conclusions: BMI increased during the transition to adulthood and these increases have grown larger over time. Obesity prevention efforts should focus on this high-risk transition period, particularly among minority populations.


Life Course Perspectives
Biological and Social Interactions


JOUR



Lee, Hedwig E.
Lee, Dohoon
Guo, Guang
Harris, Kathleen Mullan



2011


Journal of Adolescent Health

49

6

601-8








PMC3228354


5006

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