The number of adolescents in the U.S. who are overweight has more than doubled during the past 3 decades. As the prevalence of adolescent overweight continues to increase, so too will its associated consequences, including type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, poor quality of life, and increased illness and risk of death in adulthood, according to background information in the article. Whether the increasing prevalence of adolescent overweight is characterized by larger, smaller, or unchanged disparities in overweight status across socioeconomic strata has not been known.
Richard A. Miech, Ph.D., M.P.H., of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and colleagues examined trends in the prevalence of overweight among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years by family poverty status. The researchers used data from four cross-sectional, nationally representative surveys (U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys [NHANES] of 1971-1974, 1976-1980, 1988-1994, and 1999-2004).
The authors found that trends in the association of adolescent overweight with family poverty differed by age groups. There was a widening disparity among 15- to 17-year-old adolescents from poor families. This trend was similar among male, female, non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic black adolescents, resulting in an overall prevalence of overweight in 1999-2004 more than 50 percent higher among adolescents in poor vs. nonpoor families (23.3 percent vs. 14.4 percent, respectively). In contrast, for 12- to 14-year-old adolescents, prevalence did not significantly differ by family poverty status in any of the surveys; although among non-Hispanic black adolescents, overweight prevalence increased faster in nonpoor vs. poor families.
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