How much of a role do poverty and education play in the growing American problem with obesity? A report from the National Center for Health Statistics had some interesting findings on the subject as detailed in this Yahoo!/Reuters article.
Women who are poor are much more likely to be obese but men are not, the U.S. government researchers noted. They found income does not greatly affect whether a man is obese but that education seems to affect both sexes. “Among men, obesity prevalence is generally similar at all income levels, with a tendency to be slightly higher at higher income levels,” the team at the National Center for Health Statistics wrote.
Specifically, they found that 33% of men living in well-to-do households with income at 350% of the poverty level were obese, compared to 29% of men who lived below 130% of the poverty level.
The percentage point differential among women is far more striking: 29% of women in well-to-do homes were obese, but 42% of women living below poverty level were. 23% of women with a college degree were obese, compared to 42% of women with less than a high school education.
A second study found children and teens living in homes with college-educated adults were less likely to be obese, and found stronger associations between obesity and income.
Just under 12% of boys and girls living in prosperous homes were obese, compared to 21% of boys and 19% of girls in the poorest homes.
Though the study doesn’t address causalities, relationships between these factors—education, income level, gender differences, and weight—are important points in mapping the core causes of, and therefore finding solutions to, the American obesity crisis. Being overweight or obese raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and arthritis, and a study published in December. More specifically, a December 2011 article in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that adults with a BMI* of 25 or more are likely to die from these illnesses than someone the same age who is slimmer.
(*BMI, or Body-mass index, is the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters. A BMI of between 25 and 30 is overweight and a BMI of 30 or over is obese. A person 5 feet 5 inches tall is classified as overweight at 150 pounds (68 kg) and obese at 180 pounds (82 kg). A 5-foot-10 inch (1.8 meter) tall person who weighs 209 pounds (95 kg) has a BMI of 30 and is obese.)