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

  • 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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