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Developmental trajectories of overweight and obesity of US youth through the life course of adolescence to young adulthood

Authors Chen X, Brogan

Received 27 January 2012

Accepted for publication 13 February 2012

Published 29 March 2012 Volume 2012:3 Pages 33—42


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Xinguang Chen, Kathryn Brogan

Pediatric Prevention Research Center, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, USA

Objective: To detect subgroups with different risks at different ages to develop overweight and obese during the adolescence–young adulthood period.
Design: Accelerated longitudinal design and developmental trajectory analysis were used. The likelihoods to become overweight (body mass index [BMI] .25 kg/m2) and obese (BMI .30 kg/m2) were assessed across the life course from the ages of 12 to 28 years.
Subjects: Adolescent participants aged 12–17 years (n = 4119) identified in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 at baseline were followed up to 2008.
Results: Seven overweight risk groups (WG) were detected for male and female samples respectively, of which five were closely related to each of the following five periods: (a) middle-school ages (19.7% and 12.6% for male and female, respectively), (b) high-school ages (11.4% and 13.6%, respectively), (c) college ages (12.6% and 9.1%, respectively), (d) post-college ages (11.8% and 10.0%, respectively), and (e) work–family-formation ages (11.0% and 12.9%, respectively); two were nonperiod-specific groups: a permanent low-risk group for both sexes (27.3% for male, 36.4% for female), a growing-risk group for males (6.2%), and a self-limiting risk group for females (5.4%, with the likelihood increasing with age, which peaked at the age of 21 years, and then declined). Likewise, six obesity risk groups (OG) were detected, of which four corresponded to the first four high-risk WG groups. The risk groups were relatively independent of race and educational attainment.
Conclusions: Findings of this study imply that five risk groups for weight gain like five consecutive "tests" exist from middle-school period to work-and-family formation. Failure to pass any of these tests in the life course could lead to overweight or obese status. Further research needs to study life-course-specific factors and mechanisms for more effective weight control.

Keywords: developmental trajectory, overweight, obesity, adolescents and young adults, life course, United States

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