Prolonged financial stress predicts subsequent obesity: results from a prospective study of an Australian national sample

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2014 Feb;22(2):616-21. doi: 10.1002/oby.20572. Epub 2013 Sep 10.


Objective: The aim of this research was to assess the association of prolonged financial stress (FS) with subsequent obesity.

Design and methods: Data were from Waves 8 (2008), 9 (2009), and 10 (2010) of Household Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. The outcome was obesity measured in 2010. Prolonged FS was defined as having experienced FS in both 2008 and 2009. FS was measured in each year using seven questionnaire items. Analyses adjusted for health, physical activity, income, education, baseline obesity, and other covariates.

Results: Prolonged FS was a strong predictor of subsequent obesity. The adjusted risk of being obese in 2010 were 20% higher (RR: 1.20; 95% CI: 1.10-1.30) among individuals who experienced FS in both 2008 and 2009 than those who did not experience FS in either year. The association of FS with obesity was independent of income and constant across income categories.

Conclusions: Obesity prevention research should pay more attention to FS as an important dimension of economic deprivation, a concept that is distinct from common indicators of socioeconomic status such as income. Future research can examine the effect of financial education and counseling programs that help individuals with such skills as money management, budgeting, and saving on a reduction in FS and obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult