Race and Gender Differences in Obesity and Disease


The objective of the present study was to examine race and gender differences in obesity and disease overtime. This topic is under studies in racial/ethnic minority populations. Yet, gender differences in health within ethnic groups provide a more nuanced approach to health disparities. The analyses for this study were based on two waves of data (Wave1, 1986 and Wave 2, 1989) of the Americans’ Changing Lives Survey. The results revealed that a larger percentage of females are obese compared to males across all racial groups and females suffer a higher prevalence of disease compared to males which persists across time. The implications for cumulative disadvantage theory, feminist theory and the measurement of BMI and body fat are discussed.

Share and Cite:

Jones-Johnson, G. , Johnson, W. and Frishman, N. (2014) Race and Gender Differences in Obesity and Disease. Sociology Mind, 4, 233-241. doi: 10.4236/sm.2014.43024.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bird, C., & Rieker, P. (2008). Gender and Health: The Effects of Constrained Choices and Social Policies. New York : Cambridge University Press.
[2] Calle, E. E., Rodriguez, C, Walker-Thurmond, K., & Thun, M. J. (2003). Overweight ,Obesity, and Mortality from Cancer in a Prospectively Studied Cohort of U.S. Adults. New England Journal of Medicine, 348, 1625-1638.
[3] Courtenay, W. H. (2001). Constructions of Masculinity and Their Influence on Men’s Well-Being: A Theory of Gender and Health. Social Science & Medicine, 50, 1385-1401.
[4] Dannefer, D. (2003). Cumulative Advantage/Disadvantage and the Life Course: Cross-Fertilizing Age and the Social Science Theory. Journal of Geontology: Social Sciences, 58B, S327-S337.
[5] Elder, G. H. (1994). Time, Human Agency, and Social Change: Perspectives on the Life Course. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 4-15.
[6] Farmer, M. M., & Ferraro, K. F. (2005). Are Racial Disparities in Health Conditional on Socioeconomic Status? Social Science & Medicine, 60, 191-204.
[7] Ferraro, K. F., & Kelley-Moore, J. (2003). Cumulative Disadvantage and Health: Long Term Consequences of Obesity? American Sociological Review, 68, 707-729.
[8] Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., Kuczmarski, R. J., & Johnson, C. T. (1998). Overweight and Obesity in the United States: Prevalence and Trends, 1960-1994. International Journal of Obesity, 22, 39-47.
[9] Gordon-Larsen, P., Adair, L. S., & Popkin, B. M. (2003). The Relationship of Ethnicity, Socioeconomic Factors, and Overweight in US Adolescents. Obesity Research, 11, 121-129.
[10] Gordon-Larsen, P., Adair, L. S., Nelson, M. C., & Popkin, B. M. (2004). Five-Year Obesity Incidence in the Transition Period between Adolescence and Adulthood: The national Longitudinal Study of adolescent Health. American Journal of clinical Nutrition, 80, 569-575.
[11] Guo, S. S., Huang, C., Maynard, L. M., Demerath, E., Towne, B., & Chumlea, W. C. (2000). Body Mass Index during Childhood, Adolescence and Young Adulthood in Relation to Adult Overweight and Adiposity: The Fels Longitudinal Study. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorder, 24, 1628-1635.
[12] Hatch, S. (2005). Conceptualizing and Identifying Cumulative Adversity and Protective Resources: Implications for Understanding Health Inequalities. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 60B, S130-S134.
[13] Hedley, A. A., Ogden, C. L., Johnson, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Curtin, L. R., & Flegal, K. M. (2004). Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity among US Children, Adolescents, and Adults, 1999-2002. Journal of the American Medical Association, 291, 2847-2850.
[14] House, J. S., Kessler, R. C., Herzog, A. R., Mero, R. P., Kinney, A. M., & Breslow, M. J. (1990). Age, Socioeconomic Status, and Health. The Milbank Quarterly, 68, 383-411.
[15] House, J. S., LepKowski, J. M., Kinney, A. M., Mero, R. P., Kessler, R. C., & Herzog, A. R. (1994). The Social Stratification of Aging and Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35, 213-234.
[16] Kaplan, D. (2000). Promoting Weight Loss in the Obese Patient. Patient Care, 34, 204-218.
[17] Kaufman, J. S., Cooper, R. S., & McGee, D. L. (1997). Socioeconomic Status and Health in Blacks and Whites: The Problem of Residual Confounding and the Resiliency of Race. Epidemiology, 8, 621-628.
[18] Kimm, S. Y., Barton, B. A., Obarzanek, E., McMahon, R. P., Sabry, Z., Waclawiw, M. A., et al. (2001). Racial Divergence in Adiposity during Adolescence: The NHLBI Growth and Health Study. Pediatrics, 107, E34.
[19] Kopelman, P. (2000). Obesity as a Medical Problem. Nature, 404, 635-643.
[20] Kumanyika, S. (1993). Special Issues Regarding Obesity in Minority Populations. Annals of Internal Medicine, 119, 650-654.
[21] Must, A., Spadano, J., Coakley, E. H., Field, A. E., Colditz, G., & Dietz, W. H. (1999). The Disease Burden Associated with Overweight and Obesity. Journal of the American Medical Association, 282, 1523-1529.
[22] O’Rand, A. M. (1996). The Precious and the Precocious: Understanding Cumulative Disadvantage and Cumulative Advantage over the Life Course. The Gerontologist, 36, 230-238.
[23] Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Curtin, L. R., McDowell, M. A., Tabak, C. J., & Flegal, K. M. (2006). Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in the United States, 1999-2004. Journal of the American Medical Association, 295, 1549-1555.
[24] Ogden, C. L., Flegal, K. M., Carroll, M. D., & Johnson, C. L. (2002). Prevalence and Trends in Overweight among US Children and Adolescents, 1999-2000. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288, 1728-1732.
[25] Pampel, F. C., & Rogers, R. G. (2004). Socioeconomic Status, Smoking, and Health: A Test of Competing Theories of Cumulative Advantage. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45, 306-321.
[26] Patterson, M. L., Stern, S., Crawford, P. B., Mcmahon, R. P., Similo, S. L., & Schreiber, G. B. (1997). Sociodemographic Factors and Obesity in Preadolescent Black and White Girls: NHLBI’s Growth and Health Study. Journal of the National Medical Association, 89, 594-600.
[27] Prentice, A. M., & Jebb, S. A. (2001). Beyond Body Mass Index. Obesity Reviews, 2, 141-147.
[28] Read, J. G., & Gorman, B. K. (2006). Gender Inequalities in US Adult Health: The Interplay of Race and Ethnicity. Social Science & Medicine, 62, 1045-1065.
[29] Riley, M. W. (1987). On the Signifance of Age in Sociology. American Sociological Review, 52, 1-14.
[30] Ross. C. E., & Wu, C. L. (1996). Education, Age, and the Cumulative Advantage in Health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 37, 104-120.
[31] Schafer, M. H., & Ferraro, K. F. (2007). Obesity and Hospitalization over the Adult Life Course: Does Duration of Exposure Increase Use? Journal of health and Social Behavior, 48, 434-449.
[32] Shuey, K. M., & Wilson, A. E. (2008). Cumulative Disadvantage and Black-White Disparities in Life-Course Health Trajectories. Research on Aging, 30, 200-225.
[33] Sundquist, J., & Johansson, S. E. (1998). The Influence of Socioeconomic Status, Ethnicity, and Lifestyle on Body Mass Index in a Longitudinal Study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 27, 57-63.
[34] US Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) (2001). The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. Rockville, MD: Office of the Surgeon General.
[35] Wang, Y., & Beydoun, M. A. (2007). The Obesity Epidemic in the United States-Gender, Age, Socioeconomic, Racial/Ethnic, and Geographic Characteristics: A Systematic Review and Meta-Regression Analysis. Epidemiologic Reviews, 1-23.
[36] Williams, D. (1997). Race and Health: Basic Questions, Emerging Directions. Annals of Epidemiology, 7, 322-333.
[37] Williams, D. (2008). The Health of Men: Structured Inequalities and Opportunities. American Journal of Public Health, 98, S150-S157.
[38] Zhang, O., & Wang, Y. (2004). Trends in the Association between Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in U.S. Adults: 1971 to 2000. Obesity Research, 12, 1622-1632.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.