Association of Childhood Economic Hardship with Adult Height and Adult Adiposity among Hispanics/Latinos. The HCHS/SOL Socio-Cultural Ancillary Study

PLoS One. 2016 Feb 26;11(2):e0149923. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149923. eCollection 2016.


The study examined the association of childhood and current economic hardship with anthropometric indices in Hispanic/Latino adults, using data from the HCHS/SOL Socio-cultural ancillary study (N = 5,084), a community-based study of Hispanic/Latinos living in four urban areas (Bronx, NY, Chicago, IL, Miami, FL, and San Diego, CA). Childhood economic hardship was defined as having experienced a period of time when one's family had trouble paying for basic needs (e.g., food, housing), and when this economic hardship occurred: between 0-12, 13-18 years old, or throughout both of those times. Current economic hardship was defined as experiencing trouble paying for basic needs during the past 12 months. Anthropometry included height, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), and percentage body fat (%BF). Complex survey linear regression models were used to test the associations of childhood economic hardship with adult anthropometric indices, adjusting for potential confounders (e.g., age, sex, Hispanic background). Childhood economic hardship varied by Hispanic background, place of birth, and adult socio-economic status. Childhood economic hardship during both periods, childhood and adolescence, was associated with shorter height. Childhood economic hardship was associated with greater adiposity among US born individuals only. Current economic hardship was significantly associated with all three measures of adiposity (BMI, WC, %BF). These findings suggest that previous periods of childhood economic hardship appear to influence adult height more than adiposity, whereas current economic hardship may be a better determinant of adult adiposity in Hispanics.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Adverse Events*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty*
  • Social Class
  • Young Adult