Obesity in the transition to adulthood: predictions across race/ethnicity, immigrant generation, and sex

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Nov;163(11):1022-8. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.182.


Objective: To trace how racial/ethnic and immigrant disparities in body mass index (BMI) change over time as adolescents (age, 11-19 years) transition to young adulthood (age, 20-28 years).

Design: We used growth curve modeling to estimate the pattern of change in BMI from adolescence through the transition to adulthood.

Setting: All participants in the study were residents of the United States enrolled in junior high school or high school during the 1994-1995 school year.

Participants: More than 20 000 adolescents from nationally representative data interviewed at wave I (1994-1995) and followed up in wave II (1996) and III (2001-2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health when the sample was in early adulthood.

Main exposures: Race/ethnicity, immigrant generation, and sex.

Outcome measure: Body mass index.

Results: Findings indicate significant differences in both the level and change in BMI across age by sex, race/ethnicity, and immigrant generation. Females, second- and third-generation immigrants, and Hispanic and black individuals experience more rapidly increasing BMIs from adolescence into young adulthood. Increases in BMI are relatively lower for males, first-generation immigrants, and white and Asian individuals.

Conclusion: Disparities in BMI and prevalence of overweight and obesity widen with age as adolescents leave home and begin independent lives as young adults in their 20s.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Child
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult