Send to

Choose Destination
Obes Facts. 2012;5(1):112-26. doi: 10.1159/000337018. Epub 2012 Mar 2.

BMI trends, socioeconomic status, and the choice of dataset.

Author information

HealthCore Inc., 800 Delaware Avenue, Wilmington, DE 19801, USA.



This study is a descriptive investigation of trends in BMI in the USA over time, across race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES) groups, and across different datasets.


The study analyzes micro-level data from three widely used cross-sectional US health datasets: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), from the 1970s to 2008. Consistent race/ethnicity and SES groups are constructed for all datasets. SES is measured by education and income. Focusing on adults aged 20-74 years, the study estimates BMI time trends, distributional shifts, and incremental associations (gradients) with SES.


SES-BMI gradients are consistently larger for women than for men, differ across race/ethnicity groups, and are similar across datasets. Trends in mean BMI are comparable across White, Black and Hispanic males, while Hispanic females range between White and Black females. Self-reported BMI in the NHANES differs markedly from self-reports in the NHIS and BRFSS.


The NHANES, NHIS, and BRFSS provide similar evidence regarding BMI trends over time and across race/ethnicity, gender, and SES groups. Racial disparities in BMI remain after adjusting for SES and should be studied further.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for S. Karger AG, Basel, Switzerland
Loading ...
Support Center