Obesity in the Transition to Adulthood: Predictions Across Race/Ethnicity, Immigrant Generation, and Sex

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ObjectiveTo trace how racial/ethnic and immigrant disparities in body mass index (BMI) change over time as adolescents (age, 11-19 years) transition to young adulthood (age, 20-28 years).DesignWe used growth curve modeling to estimate the pattern of change in BMI from adolescence through the transition to adulthood.SettingAll participants in the study were residents of the United States enrolled in junior high school or high school during the 1994-1995 school year.ParticipantsMore than 20 000 adolescents from nationally representative data interviewed at wave I (1994-1995) and followed up in wave II (1996) and III (2001-2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health when the sample was in early adulthood.Main ExposuresRace/ethnicity, immigrant generation, and sex.Outcome MeasureBody mass index.ResultsFindings indicate significant differences in both the level and change in BMI across age by sex, race/ethnicity, and immigrant generation. Females, second- and third-generation immigrants, and Hispanic and black individuals experience more rapidly increasing BMIs from adolescence into young adulthood. Increases in BMI are relatively lower for males, first-generation immigrants, and white and Asian individuals.ConclusionDisparities in BMI and prevalence of overweight and obesity widen with age as adolescents leave home and begin independent lives as young adults in their 20s.

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