Longitudinal associations between poverty and obesity from birth through adolescence

Am J Public Health. 2014 May;104(5):e70-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301806. Epub 2014 Mar 13.


Objectives: We examined the relationship between timing of poverty and risk of first-incidence obesity from ages 3 to 15.5 years.

Methods: We used the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (1991-2007) to study 1150 children with repeated measures of income, weight, and height from birth to 15.5 years in 10 US cities. Our dependent variable was the first incidence of obesity (body mass index ≥ 95th percentile). We measured poverty (income-to-needs ratio < 2) prior to age 2 years and a lagged, time-varying measure of poverty between ages 2 and 12 years. We estimated discrete-time hazard models of the relative risk of first transition to obesity.

Results: Poverty prior to age 2 years was associated with risk of obesity by age 15.5 years in fully adjusted models. These associations did not vary by gender.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that there are enduring associations between early life poverty and adolescent obesity. This stage in the life course may serve as a critical period for both poverty and obesity prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors