Study: The Complicated Link Between Wealth and Obesity

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Your socioeconomic background has less impact on your chances of obesity if you’re a man than if you’re woman, according to a new analysis from the National Center for Health Statistics. Women who were better educated and wealthier were less likely to be obese than their less educated and poorer counterparts, but the same effect was not seen in men.

Interestingly, for men of color — blacks and Mexican Americans — higher income actually increased the odds that they were obese.

Researchers used a metric of income called the Poverty Income Ratio (PIR) to determine the financial circumstances of the people in the study. For example, men who have a PIR of 350 earn 350% more than the poverty limit. Below, is a chart that shows obesity rates by income, ethnicity and sex.

In the chart, obesity is determined by body mass index: above 30 is considered obese.

The study looked at trends in obesity between 1988-94 and 2005-08. Beyond the relationship between weight and income, the study found that obesity rates rose overall. HealthDay reports:

“The prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels,” during that time, the authors said, and the same general trend held for American children. They noted that by 2008 more than a third of American adults were obese, as well as nearly 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years.

In other words, regardless of income, education, sex, ethnicity or age, no one is immune to obesity.