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Do birth cohorts matter? Age-period-cohort analyses of the obesity epidemic in the United States

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  • Reither, Eric N.
  • Hauser, Robert M.
  • Yang, Yang

Abstract

Many studies have cited the importance of secular changes or "period effects" as causes of the U.S. obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, relatively little attention has been devoted to the possible influence of cohort-related mechanisms. To address this current gap in the scientific literature, this investigation utilized the responses from 1.7 million participants in the 1976-2002 National Health Interview Surveys to determine how birth cohorts may have contributed to the rapid increase in the prevalence of obesity. Results from hierarchical age-period-cohort (HAPC) models confirmed that period effects are principally responsible for the U.S. obesity epidemic. However, HAPC models also demonstrated that birth cohort membership is influential. Independent of age and period effects, the predicted probability of obesity at age 25 increased by 30% for cohorts born between 1955 and 1975. Our results also showed that age, period and cohort effects varied by race/gender and educational attainment. For instance, increases in the predicted probabilities of obesity were particularly sharp for recent cohorts of Black females. Our investigation successfully demonstrated that both secular change and birth cohort membership have independently contributed to elevated odds of obesity among recent generations of Americans, suggesting that cohort-specific strategies may be needed to combat disconcertingly high rates of obesity in the U.S.

Suggested Citation

  • Reither, Eric N. & Hauser, Robert M. & Yang, Yang, 2009. "Do birth cohorts matter? Age-period-cohort analyses of the obesity epidemic in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 1439-1448, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:69:y:2009:i:10:p:1439-1448
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
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    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1998:88:12:1814-1820_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Yang Yang & Kenneth C. Land, 2008. "Age–Period–Cohort Analysis of Repeated Cross-Section Surveys: Fixed or Random Effects?," Sociological Methods & Research, , vol. 36(3), pages 297-326, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Reither, Eric N. & Masters, Ryan K. & Yang, Yang Claire & Powers, Daniel A. & Zheng, Hui & Land, Kenneth C., 2015. "Should age-period-cohort studies return to the methodologies of the 1970s?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 356-365.
    2. Beck, Audrey N. & Finch, Brian K. & Lin, Shih-Fan & Hummer, Robert A. & Masters, Ryan K., 2014. "Racial disparities in self-rated health: Trends, explanatory factors, and the changing role of socio-demographics," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 163-177.
    3. John Komlos & Marek Brabec, 2010. "The Trend of Mean BMI Values of US Adults, Birth Cohorts 1882-1986 Indicates that the Obesity Epidemic Began Earlier than Hitherto Thought," NBER Working Papers 15862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Qiang Fu & Kenneth Land, 2015. "The Increasing Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity of Children and Youth in China, 1989–2009: An Age–Period–Cohort Analysis," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 34(6), pages 901-921, December.
    5. Delaruelle, Katrijn & Buffel, Veerle & Bracke, Piet, 2015. "Educational expansion and the education gradient in health: A hierarchical age-period-cohort analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 79-88.
    6. Fumagalli, Elena & Mentzakis, Emmanouil & Suhrcke, Marc, 2013. "Do political factors matter in explaining under- and overweight outcomes in developing countries?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 48-56.
    7. Andrew Bell & Kelvyn Jones, 2015. "Bayesian informative priors with Yang and Land’s hierarchical age–period–cohort model," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 49(1), pages 255-266, January.
    8. Gustavo De Santis & Massimo Mucciardi, 2017. "From Euclidean distances to APC models," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 51(2), pages 829-846, March.
    9. John Komlos & Marek Brabec, 2010. "The Trend of BMI Values among US Adults," CESifo Working Paper Series 2987, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Ryan Masters & Robert Hummer & Daniel Powers & Audrey Beck & Shih-Fan Lin & Brian Finch, 2014. "Long-Term Trends in Adult Mortality for U.S. Blacks and Whites: An Examination of Period- and Cohort-Based Changes," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(6), pages 2047-2073, December.
    11. Newton, Nicky J. & Ryan, Lindsay H. & King, Rachel T. & Smith, Jacqui, 2014. "Cohort differences in the marriage–health relationship for midlife women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 64-72.
    12. Sarma, Sisira & Thind, Amardeep & Chu, Man-Kee, 2011. "Do new cohorts of family physicians work less compared to their older predecessors? The evidence from Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(12), pages 2049-2058, June.
    13. repec:eee:chieco:v:44:y:2017:i:c:p:282-295 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Masters, Ryan K. & Link, Bruce G. & Phelan, Jo C., 2015. "Trends in education gradients of ‘preventable’ mortality: A test of fundamental cause theory," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 19-28.
    15. Louis Chauvel & Martin Schröder, 2014. "Generational Inequalities and Welfare Regimes," LIS Working papers 606, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    16. Sarma, Sisira & Devlin, Rose Anne & Thind, Amardeep & Chu, Man-Kee, 2012. "Canadian family physicians’ decision to collaborate: Age, period and cohort effects," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 1811-1819.

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