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Open Access Research article

Changes in body mass index by age, gender, and socio-economic status among a cohort of Norwegian men and women (1990–2001)

Deborah L Reas1*, Jan F Nygård1, Elisabeth Svensson2, Tom Sørensen1 and Inger Sandanger3

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Norway

2 Health Region East, Health Services Research Center, Akershus University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

3 Health Region East, Health Services Research Center, University of Oslo, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:269  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-269

Published: 30 September 2007

Abstract

Background

Consistent with global trends, the prevalence of obesity is increasing among Norwegian adults. This study aimed to investigate individual trends in BMI (kg/m2) by age, gender, and socio-economic status over an 11-year period.

Methods

A cohort of 1169 adults (n = 581 men; n = 588 women) self-reported BMI during a general health interview twice administered in two regions in Norway.

Results

Average BMI increased significantly from 23.7 (SD = 3.4) to 25.4 (SD = 3.8), with equivalent increases for both genders. Proportion of obesity (BMI ≥ 30) increased from 4% to 11% for women and 5% to 13% for men. Of those already classified as overweight or obese in 1990, 68% had gained additional weight 10 years later, by an average increase of 2.6 BMI units. The greatest amount of weight gain occurred for the youngest adults (aged 20–29 years). Age-adjusted general linear models revealed that in 1990, women with a lower level of education had a significantly greater BMI than more educated women. In both 1990 and 2001, rural men with the highest level of household income had a greater BMI than rural men earning less income. Weight gain occurred across all education and income brackets, with no differential associations between SES strata and changes in BMI for either gender or region.

Conclusion

Results demonstrated significant yet gender-equivalent increases in BMI over an 11-year period within this cohort of Norwegian adults. Whereas socio-economic status exerted minimal influence on changes in BMI over time, young adulthood appeared to be a critical time period at which accelerated weight gain occurred.