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Research In Health Disparities

The College Health and Wellness Study: Baseline Correlates of Overweight among African Americans

Tiffany L. Gary, Susan M. Gross, Dorothy C. Browne, and Thomas A. LaVeist


Overweight and obesity are epidemic in the United States, particularly among minority populations. This epidemic contributes to the development of chronic conditions that occur later in life such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Therefore, it is important to identify factors associated with the development of obesity during young adulthood. We conducted a cross-sectional survey among students graduating from a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) in the Mid-Atlantic region. Participants were 392 predominantly African American seniors graduating in the spring of 2003. Data were collected using a self-administered paper and pencil questionnaire which focused on weight, weight management activities, individual and familial weight history, and health status indicators. Participants were on average 24 +/- 5 years of age and 69% female; over 90% identified as African American or Black. According to NIH guidelines, about 30% of males and 28% of females were considered overweight, 12% of males and 7% of females were considered obese, and 7% of males and females were considered extremely obese. Significant correlates of being more overweight were being married, having children, lower socioeconomic status, weight-loss attempts, personal and family history of overweight, and poorer health status. These data suggest that among this sample, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is similar to other populations of young African American adults. Familial factors such as socioeconomic status and family weight history were important correlates of overweight. Overweight is a significant problem in this population, and these data should be useful for developing weight loss interventions aimed at young adults.

KEYWORDS: African Americans, Obesity, Overweight, Young adults.

J Urban Health. 2006 Mar;83(2):253-65