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Social origins, early hardship and obesity: A strong association in women, but not in men?


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  • Khlat, Myriam
  • Jusot, Florence
  • Ville, Isabelle


This study investigates the relation between early life conditions and adult obesity in France, using a rich data set collected through the 2003 nationally representative Life History Survey. No salient factor emerged in men, while in women, after controlling for current socio-demographic characteristics, a relation was found between obesity and the following factors: father's occupation (ORÂ =Â 3.2 for women whose father was a clerical worker, versus those whose father was in a higher-level occupation); experience of economic hardship in childhood (ORÂ =Â 2.0), and; high parity (ORÂ =Â 2.1 for parities of more than 3 versus parity of 1). Neither early family history nor mother's working status surfaced as significant factors. Those findings highlight a definite gender pattern, with a strong association between early disadvantage and obesity in women, but not in men. Potential mechanisms are discussed, particularly the "habitus", the "thrifty phenotype" and the "feast-famine" hypotheses, and possible interactions with childbearing and motherhood. An integration of social and biological perspectives is needed to reach a better understanding of the processes involved, and to achieve progress in primary and secondary prevention.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
Issue (Month): 9 (May)
Pages: 1692-1699

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:68:y:2009:i:9:p:1692-1699

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Keywords: France Obesity Body mass index (BMI) Social origins Family history Gender Early hardship;


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Cited by:
  1. Florence Jusot & Sandy Tubeuf & Alain Trannoy, 2013. "Circumstances And Efforts: How Important Is Their Correlation For The Measurement Of Inequality Of Opportunity In Health?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(12), pages 1470-1495, December.
  2. Trannoy, Alain & Tubeuf, Sandy & Jusot, Florence, 2010. "Effort or Circumstances : Which one matters in health inequality ?," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/9524, Paris Dauphine University.
  3. Wells, Jonathan C.K. & Marphatia, Akanksha A. & Cole, Tim J. & McCoy, David, 2012. "Associations of economic and gender inequality with global obesity prevalence: Understanding the female excess," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 482-490.
  4. Gustafsson, Per E. & Hammarström, Anne, 2012. "Socioeconomic disadvantage in adolescent women and metabolic syndrome in mid-adulthood: An examination of pathways of embodiment in the Northern Swedish Cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(10), pages 1630-1638.
  5. Jennifer Montez & Mark Hayward, 2014. "Cumulative Childhood Adversity, Educational Attainment, and Active Life Expectancy Among U.S. Adults," Demography, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 413-435, April.


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