Socioeconomic status, stature, and obesity in women: 20-year trends in urban Colombia

Am J Hum Biol. Sep-Oct 2012;24(5):602-10. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22280. Epub 2012 Apr 18.


Objectives: Ongoing social and economic changes in developing countries are associated with increases in body size, and most notably increases in the prevalence of obesity. The social patterning of these changes in terms of socioeconomic status (SES) is not well documented. The aim of this study was to assess the changes in stature, body mass index (BMI) and fatness in adult women in urban Cali, Colombia between 1988-1989 and 2007-2008.

Methods: We compared the results of anthropometric surveys completed in 1988-1989 and 2007-2008 of nonpregnant, nonlactating women, 18-44 years of age. Samples in both studies were stratified by SES. We calculated age-standardized prevalence rates to assess time trends in obesity. Body fatness was assessed by skinfold thicknesses.

Results: Stature increased in all SES groups and remained positively associated with SES. BMI increased only in the lower SES group, from 24.4 to 25.9 kg/m(2) and remained negatively associated with SES. The age-standardized prevalence of obesity increased from 7.9 to 17.0% in the lower SES group, but only from 4.5 to 8.2% in the middle SES group, and was unchanged in the upper SES group. Body fatness increased in all SES groups, but only in the upper body.

Conclusion: The increased stature in all SES groups is indicative of general improvements in socioeconomic conditions. The increased prevalence of obesity in the lower SES groups is in keeping with the findings in other middle-income developing countries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Height*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Size
  • Colombia / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Seasons
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • Social Class*
  • Young Adult