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Socioeconomic position and risk of short-term weight gain: Prospective study of 14,619 middle-aged men and women

Lisa R Purslow12, Elizabeth H Young13, Nicholas J Wareham1*, Nita Forouhi1, Eric J Brunner4, Robert N Luben3, Ailsa A Welch3, Kay-Tee Khaw3, Shelia A Bingham56 and Manjinder S Sandhu13

Author Affiliations

1 MRC Epidemiology Unit, Institute of Metabolic Science, Cambridge, UK

2 Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, UCL, London, UK

3 Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

4 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL, London, UK

5 MRC Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Cambridge, UK

6 MRC Centre for Nutrition in Cancer Epidemiology Prevention and Survival, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:112  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-112

Published: 9 April 2008



The association between socioeconomic position in middle age and risk of subsequent, short-term weight gain is unknown. We therefore assessed this association in a prospective population based cohort study in Norfolk, UK.


We analysed data on 14,619 middle-aged men and women (aged between 40–75 at baseline) with repeated objective measures of weight and height at baseline (1993–1997) and follow up (1998–2000).


During follow up 5,064 people gained more than 2.5 kg. Compared with the highest social class, individuals in the lowest social class had around a 30% greater risk of gaining more than 2.5 kg (OR 1.29; 95% CI 1.11–1.51; p for trend = 0.002). This association remained statistically significant following adjustment for sex, age, baseline BMI, smoking, and follow up time (OR 1.25; CI 1.07–1.46; p for trend <0.001). We also found no material difference between unadjusted models and those including all confounders and potential mediators.


Individuals of low socioeconomic position are at greatest risk of gaining weight during middle age, which is not explained by classical correlates of socioeconomic position and risk factors for obesity.