Race and weight change in US women: the roles of socioeconomic and marital status

Am J Public Health. 1991 Mar;81(3):319-23. doi: 10.2105/ajph.81.3.319.


Background: The prevalence of overweight among Black women in the US is higher than among White women, but the causes are unknown.

Methods: We examined the weight change for 514 Black and 2,770 White women who entered the first Health and Nutrtion Examination Survey (1971-75) at ages 25-44 years and were weighed again a decade later. We used multivariate analyses to estimate the weight-change effectgs associated with race, family income, education, and marital change.

Results: After multiple adjustments, Black race, education below college level, and becoming married during the follow-up interval were each independently associated with an increased mean weight change. Using multivariate logistic analyses, Black race was not independently associated with an increased risk of major weight gain (change greater than or equal to +13 kg), but it was associated with a reduced likelihood of major weight loss (change less than or equal to -7 kg) (odds ratio - 0.64 [95% CI -0.41, 0.97])]. Very low family income was independently associated with the likelihood of both major weight gain (OR - 1.71 [95% CI - 1.15, 2.55]) and major weight loss (OR - 1.86 [95% CI - 1.18, 2.95]).

Conclusions: Amont US women, Black race is independently associated with a reduced likelihood of major weight loss, but not with major weight gain. Women at greatest risk of weight gain are those with education below college level, those entering marriage, and those with very low family income.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blacks*
  • Body Weight / ethnology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Marriage*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Whites*