Socioeconomic status and obesity: a review of the literature

Psychol Bull. 1989 Mar;105(2):260-75. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.105.2.260.


A review of 144 published studies of the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity reveals a strong inverse relationship among women in developed societies. The relationship is inconsistent for men and children in developed societies. In developing societies, however, a strong direct relationship exists between SES and obesity among men, women, and children. A review of social attitudes toward obesity and thinness reveals values congruent with the distribution of obesity by SES in different societies. Several variables may mediate the influence of attitudes toward obesity and thinness among women in developed societies that result in the inverse relationship between SES and obesity. They include dietary restraint, physical activity, social mobility, and inheritance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Developing Countries
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors*