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Exposure to multiple childhood social risk factors and adult body mass index trajectories from ages 20 to 64 years

Caleyachetty, Rishi and Stafford, Mai and Cooper, Rachel and Anderson, Emma L and Howe, Laura D and Cosco, Theodore D and Kuh, Diana and Hardy, Rebecca (2021) Exposure to multiple childhood social risk factors and adult body mass index trajectories from ages 20 to 64 years. European Journal of Public Health. ISSN 1101-1262

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Abstract

Background While childhood social risk factors appear to be associated with adult obesity, it is unclear whether exposure to multiple childhood social risk factors is associated with accelerated weight gain during adulthood. Methods We used the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, a British population-based birth cohort study of participants born in 1946, height and weight were measured by nurses at ages 36, 43, 53 and 60–64 and self-reported at 20 and 26 years. The 9 childhood socioeconomic risk factors and 8 binary childhood psychosocial risk factors were measured, with 13 prospectively measured at age 4 years (or at 7 or 11 years if missing) and 3 were recalled when participants were age 43. Multilevel modelling was used to examine the association between the number of childhood social risk factors and changes in body mass index (BMI) with age. Results Increasing exposure to a higher number of childhood socioeconomic risk factors was associated with higher mean BMI across adulthood for both sexes and with a faster increase in BMI from 20 to 64 years, among women but not men. Associations remained after adjustment for adult social class. There was no evidence of an association between exposure to childhood psychosocial risk factors and mean BMI in either sex at any age. Conclusions Strategies for the prevention and management of weight gain across adulthood may need to tailor interventions in consideration of past exposure to multiple socioeconomic disadvantages experienced during childhood.

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