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Prev Med. 1996 Mar-Apr;25(2):203-11.

The influence of gender and socioeconomic factors on Hispanic/white differences in body mass index.

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Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California 94304-1825, USA.



This article examines the effects of gender and socioeconomic factors on ethnic differences in body mass index (BMI) using a matched-pairs design of 688 pairs of Hispanics (principally Mexican American) and whites. Subjects, ages 25-74, were drawn from five population-based surveys conducted from 1979 to 1990 in four northern California cities.


Hispanic women and men both had significantly higher BMI levels than the white women and men with whom they were matched (P < 0.001). These ethnic differences persisted across every level of education for both women and men, with the magnitude of the difference ranging from 0.9 BMI units (between the most educated Hispanic and white men) to 2.9 BMI units (between the least educated Hispanic and white women). The highest prevalence of overweight was among the least educated Hispanic women (61.1%) and Hispanic men (48.4%). The higher BMI levels of Hispanic women and men relative to their white counterparts were not explained by age, gender, education, city of residence, time of survey, or language spoken in a multiple regression model. Hispanic women and men both reported higher desired body weight (height standardized) than white women and men, indicating a possible contribution of cultural factors to the ethnic differences in overweight.


These findings provide insight into the greater prevalence of overweight in Hispanic relative to white populations as well as guidance for weight-loss interventions tailored to low socioeconomic groups.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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