Socioeconomic disparities in trajectories of adiposity across childhood

Int J Pediatr Obes. 2011 Jun;6(2-2):e144-53. doi: 10.3109/17477166.2010.500387. Epub 2010 Sep 22.


Background: Socioeconomic inequalities in obesity are consistently observed in high-income countries. The development of such inequalities across childhood; however, has not been studied using longitudinal data.

Methods: Using data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (participants were born 1991/2 in South-West England), we modelled trajectories of ponderal index (PI) (N=12 246) from birth to 2 years and body mass index (BMI) (N=11 380) from 2 to 10 years. Individual trajectories were estimated using mixed-effects models, and differences in trajectories by socioeconomic position (measured by maternal education) were investigated.

Results: There was little socioeconomic patterning of PI from birth to 2 years. Socioeconomic differences in BMI began to emerge by 4 years old, and widened with increasing age. Amongst girls there was a clear gradient across all categories of maternal education by age 8, with daughters of more educated women being less adipose. Amongst boys, sons of degree-educated women had lower BMI but there was little difference between the lower maternal education categories. By 10 years old the mean BMI difference between the highest and lowest maternal education category was 0.38 kg/m(2) for boys and 0.89 kg/m(2) for girls. The results imply that interventions to prevent inequalities in childhood obesity should begin in pre-school years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Age Factors
  • Aging*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mothers
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors*