Childhood obesity may have leveled off, but disparities are getting worse for adolescents in California?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at obesity rates in adolescents comparing income groups and gender in the years, 2001-2007. What they found was potentially alarming. This study reveals that when comparing adolescents under the poverty line (<100% of poverty) and adolescents whose family income is greater than 300 percent of poverty, adolescents from low-income households show over double the obesity prevalence. There are many studies that have shown increases in obesity across all income groups. However, there is continuing speculation that obesity and income may have an inverse relationship, as incomes go up, obesity rates tend to be lower and vice-versa. There is no definitive answer as to why this may occur, but it is speculated that higher income families have more access to healthy foods, and that low-income families may make eating decisions related what foods provide the most caloric value for the money spent, often consuming calorically rich, but nutrient poor foods. There are, of course, many factors that help shape these trends.

The adolescent obesity gap increases.

The adolescent obesity gap increases.

To explain, in 2001 the obesity rate for California adolescents living under 100 percent of poverty was 17 percent and for those in households earning more than 300 percent of poverty, it was only 10 percent. That’s a difference of seven percent. However, by 2007, that disparity between income groups had over doubled to 15 percent; a 23 percent rate for low-income adolescents and an 8 percent rate for higher income adolescents. For a family of four, the poverty rate in 2007, was $21,203, so 300 percent of poverty is $62,609, hardly a king’s ransom for a family of four, but therein lays the disparity. Read More >