High perceived social support protects against the intergenerational transmission of obesity: The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study

Prev Med. 2016 Sep;90:79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2016.07.004. Epub 2016 Jul 6.


Aims: Our aims were to assess whether offspring social support moderates the relationship between parental body mass index (BMI) and offspring BMI.

Methods: A prospective design was used with an analytic sample of 1049 participants from Finland (the offspring) who were 35-50years old in 2012 when adulthood BMI was measured. Parental BMI was self-reported at baseline in 1980. Offspring social support was measured in 2007 when participants were 30-45years old. Linear and logistic regression was used to examine whether there was an interaction between parental BMI and offspring social support when predicting offspring BMI in adulthood. An analysis of simple slopes and multilevel growth curve modeling were used to further examine the interaction.

Results: The interaction between maternal BMI and offspring social support was significantly and negatively related to offspring BMI in adulthood (β=-0.068, R(2) change=0.005, p=0.015) in the fully adjusted model which also adjusted for parental occupational status and offspring depressive symptoms. The logistic regression supported these results, with the interaction between maternal overweight (BMI≥25kg/m(2)) and offspring social support negatively associated with offspring overweight in adulthood (odds ratio=0.74, 95% confidence interval, 0.56 to 0.98). The growth curve analysis further demonstrated that high maternal BMI predicts more rapidly rising offspring BMI in those reporting low social support compared to high social support.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that social support protects against the intergenerational transmission of obesity and therefore presents an important opportunity for obesity prevention efforts.

Keywords: Obesity; Observational study; Social support.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Support*