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Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2016 May 16;10(2):e3458. eCollection 2016 Jun.

Psychosocial Correlates of Body Mass Index in the United States: Intersection of Race, Gender and Age.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA; Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.



Studies on the association between psychosocial factors and obesity have provided mixed findings.


Current study used a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults to investigate how intersection of race, gender and age alters the psychosocial correlates of body mass index (BMI).


Data came from the national health measurement study (NHMS), a cross-sectional study with nationally representative sample of Black and White (n = 3,648) adults ages 35 - 89. We tested bivariate correlations between BMI and physical and mental quality of life, purpose in life, number of chronic medical conditions, and discrimination across race × gender × age groups.


Higher purpose in life was associated with lower BMI among middle aged and older White women, middle aged Black men, middle aged Black women, and older Black women but not middle aged or older White men and older Black men. There was a positive association between multi-morbidity and BMI in all groups other than older White men. High BMI was associated with poor mental quality of life among older White women, older Black men and women, but not any of middle aged groups, and older White men. High BMI was associated with poor physical quality of life among all groups. Everyday discrimination was positively associated with BMI among older White women but not any other group. Lifetime discrimination was not associated with BMI among any of the groups.


Race, gender, and age shape psychosocial and health related correlates of BMI. There is a need for further research on group differences in psychosocial correlates of obesity.


Age; Body Mass Index; Gender; Race

Conflict of interest statement

Author declares that there is no any financial support or relationship that may pose conflict of interest.

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