Gutin, Iliya (2018). Is your weight “healthy”? The association between perceived weight throughout early life and adult self-rated health. Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
As obesity and weight gain continue pose a threat to the health and wellbeing of ever-younger U.S. adults, the extent to which contemporary adults understand their body weight as a salient component of their overall health and wellbeing remain poorly understood. Though weight gain and obesity are often related to a host of cumulative, weight-related morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, the onset of these conditions typically occurs later in the life course. Consequently, it is important to understand how adults come to establish the baseline relationship between their weight and health in the absence of more severe, weight-related health issues. Addressing this issue, I use Add Health and Latent Class Analysis to examine how perceptions of weight throughout early life are associated with self-rated health (SRH) in adulthood, above and beyond objective weight, health status, and other critical confounders. Results show that adults who ever report perceiving themselves as “overweight” – in early years, only recently, or always – are nearly twice as likely to report fair/poor SRH as individuals consistently perceiving their weight as “about right”. These findings provide valuable insight into the nuances of how adults define their health as a function of weight change and stability over time. More importantly, this research contributes to the growing body of work emphasizing the importance of subjectivity in evaluating health, and how perceptions of health – such as weight status – vary and become internalized throughout the life course.
overweight obesity perceived weight self-rated health health perceptions
Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association
2184. Section on Medical Sociology Refereed Roundtable Session
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