How does psychosocial stress affect the relationship between socioeconomic disadvantage and overweight and obesity? Examining Hemmingsson's model with data from a Danish longitudinal study

Per Hoegh Poulsen*, Karin Biering, Trine Nøhr Winding, Ellen Aagaard Nohr, Liselotte Vogdrup Petersen, Stanley J. Ulijaszek, Johan Hviid Andersen

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Background: Chronic stress in childhood may increase the risk of overweight and obesity in young people. Erik Hemmingsson has suggested a new obesity causation model which focuses on psychosocial stress. The aim was to examine the associations between socioeconomic disadvantage and overweight and obesity and examine if these associations attenuate, when the effect of the different domains from Eric Hemmingsson's obesity causation model were taken into account. Methods: A longitudinal study using data from The West Jutland Cohort Study (N = 2879). Outcome was overweight and obesity combined derived from self-reported weight and height at age 15, 18, 21 and 28 years. Exposure variables were equivalised household income, educational level and labour market participation of the mother derived from registers and psychosocial variables derived from questionnaires. A three-step adjustment model using logistic regression and stratified by gender was applied. Results: Mother's low educational level was associated with a 3-fold increased odds of obesity in 18 year-old-girls, which attenuated when adjusting for the domains adult distress, disharmonious family environment and offspring distress. In 28 year-old girls, a 2.5-fold increased odds of obesity was observed, which attenuated when mutual adjusted for other socioeconomic variables and attenuated even further when adjusting for all the domains. In 18-year-old boys, a 3-fold increased odds of obesity was observed which attenuated after adjustments for adult distress, disharmonious family environment and offspring distress. In 21-year old boys, a four-fold increased odds of obesity was observed that attenuated after adjustments. At age 28 years, a three-fold increased odds of obesity was observed, which vanished in the fully adjusted model. Conclusions: Our study confirms to some extent that the associations between socioeconomic disadvantage and overweight and obesity can be explained by the domains included in Erik Hemmingsson's model, although our results should be interpreted with caution. Adult distress, disharmonious family environment and offspring distress accounted for some of the association in girls, whereas in boys it was primarily offspring distress, which had the greatest impact. Young people's educational attainment can act as a buffer in the relationship between mother's lower educational level and obesity at age 28 years.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1475
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume19
Number of pages16
ISSN1471-2458
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7. Nov 2019

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Keywords

  • Overweight and obesity
  • Psychosocial stress
  • Socioeconomic disadvantage

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