Objective: This study investigated 5-year trends in body weight, overweight and obesity and their association with sociodemographic variables in a large, multi-ethnic community sample of Australian adults.
Design: This prospective population study used baseline and 5-year follow-up data from participants in the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study (MCCS).
Setting: Population study in Melbourne, Australia.
Subjects: In total, 12 125 men and 17 674 women aged 35-69 years at baseline.
Results: Mean 5-year weight change in this sample was +1.58 (standard deviation (SD) 4.82) kg for men and +2.42 (SD 5.17) kg for women. Younger (35-44 years) men and, in particular, women gained more weight than older adults and were at highest risk of major weight gain (> or =5 kg) and becoming overweight. Risk of major weight gain and associations between demographic variables and weight change did not vary greatly by ethnicity. Education level showed complex associations with weight outcomes that differed by sex and ethnicity. Multivariate analyses showed that, among men, higher initial body weight was associated with decreased likelihood of major weight gain, whereas among women, those initially overweight or obese were about 20% more likely to experience major weight gain than underweight or healthy weight women.
Conclusions: Findings of widespread weight gain across this entire population sample, and particularly among younger women and women who were already overweight, are a cause for alarm. The prevention of weight gain and obesity across the entire population should be an urgent public health priority. Young-to-mid adulthood appears to be a critical time to intervene to prevent future weight gain.