Trends in BMI and Weight Perception Among Young Adults: An Analysis of Gender, Race, and Educational Disparities

Jamie L. Lynch , St. Norbert College

Social science research shows that high body mass index (BMI) is associated with a number of socioeconomic disadvantages including low pay and social isolation. It is clear that excess weight can be problematic. What is less clear is how race, gender, and educational attainment influence how and when excess weight is perceived as problematic. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, 1997 cohort, this study tracks changes in BMI, weight perception, and educational attainment from age 16 to 30. Throughout young adulthood, compared to men with similar BMIs, women are substantially more likely to see their weight as problematic, misidentify their weight status, and to attempt to lose weight. Overall results indicate that gender and race differences in weight pessimism and optimism emerge in childhood, persist throughout adolescence, and expand at the end of young adulthood.

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 Presented in Session 52. Flash Session: Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and¬†Health¬†