Age, period and cohort effects on body weight and body mass index in adults: The Doetinchem Cohort Study

Public Health Nutr. 2009 Jun;12(6):862-70. doi: 10.1017/S1368980008003091. Epub 2008 Jul 24.


Objective: To study the development of body weight with ageing, in a general adult population, taking into account possible period and cohort effects.

Design: A prospective cohort study with 11 years of follow-up. At baseline and after 6 and 11 years, body weight and height were measured.

Setting: The Doetinchem Cohort Study, consisting of inhabitants of Doetinchem, a town in a rural area of The Netherlands.

Subjects: In total, 4070 healthy men and women aged 20-59 years at baseline.

Results: Increase in BMI with ageing was less profound based on cross-sectional data than based on longitudinal data. More recent-born cohorts had a higher BMI at a given age than cohorts who were born earlier. Increase in mean BMI with ageing was observed in all age groups and was similar for groups with a different educational level. Highest increase in BMI over 11 years was observed in the youngest group, aged 20-29 years at baseline (2.2 [95 % CL 2.0, 2.3] kg/m2), and lowest increase in the oldest group, aged 50-59 years at baseline (1.1 [1.0, 1.3] kg/m2).

Conclusions: Findings of the present study using longitudinal data suggest that increase in BMI with ageing is underestimated in all age groups by studying cross-sectional data only. Further, weight gain is present in all educational levels and does not stop at middle age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Weight Gain
  • Young Adult