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

Listed author(s):
  • 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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  1. Melchior, Maria & Lert, France & Martin, Magali & Ville, Isabelle, 2006. "Socioeconomic position in childhood and in adulthood and functional limitations in midlife: Data from a nationally-representative survey of French men and women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(11), pages 2813-2824, December.
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  3. Wei-Jun J. Yeung & Greg J. Duncan & Martha S. Hill, 2001. "Childhood family structure and young adult behaviors," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 14(2), pages 271-299.
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  5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2004.049429_8 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Van De Mheen, H. & Stronks, K. & Van Den Bos, J. & Mackenbach, J. P., 1997. "The contribution of childhood environment to the explanation of socio-economic inequalities in health in adult life: A retrospective study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 13-24, January.
  7. Preston, Samuel H. & Hill, Mark E. & Drevenstedt, Greg L., 1998. "Childhood conditions that predict survival to advanced ages among African-Americans," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 47(9), pages 1231-1246, November.
  8. Mark Hayward & Bridget Gorman, 2004. "The long arm of childhood: The influence of early-life social conditions on men’s mortality," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(1), pages 87-107, February.
  9. John F. Ermisch & Marco Francesconi, 2001. "Family structure and children's achievements," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 14(2), pages 249-270.
  10. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2007.123653_6 is not listed on IDEAS
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  12. Jenifer Hamil-Luker & Angela O’rand, 2007. "Gender differences in the link between childhood socioeconomic conditions and heart attack risk in adulthood," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(1), pages 137-158, February.
  13. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2002:92:8:1299-1304_9 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Daniel Ruffin & Isabelle Ville, 2006. "Les expériences de santé comme vecteur de l'identité," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 393(1), pages 61-79.
  15. Emmanuelle Crenner & Olivier Donnat & France Guérin-Pace & Frédérique Houseaux & Isabelle Ville, 2006. "L'élaboration d'une enquête quantitative sur la construction des identités," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 393(1), pages 7-20.
  16. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.066290_1 is not listed on IDEAS
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