Gender and Body Weight Status over the Life Course in China

Hongwei Xu, University of Michigan
Susan E. Short, Brown University

Developing countries are in the midst of emerging obesity epidemics. Men and women are disproportionately affected by obesity regarding psychological, socioeconomic, and health outcomes. It is unclear how gender differences in body weight change and vary by important moderators over the life course. Previous findings from western societies may not apply to developing countries that are at different stages of the nutrition transition. We draw on longitudinal data that covers the period of 1991-2009 in China, a country that has experienced enormous social changes and a rapid increase in obesity in recent years. We examine how gender differences in body mass index(BMI) change under the influences of SES and socio-environmental context over the life course and across different cohorts. We find men have higher BMI during young adulthood, but women gain greater weight in subsequent years. Women’s average BMI exceeds men’s around midlife, and the gap widens in later life.

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Presented in Session 186: Life Course Approaches to Health and Mortality