Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Effects of Obesity May Stretch Beyond Health

A report in the latest issue of Sociology in Education appears to indicate that obese girls are less likely to attend college than non-obese girls. The study was authored by UT Austin associate professor Robert Crosnoe, who noted several interesting things:
  • if obesity was uncommon in their high school they were less likely to enter college

  • the disconnect was more prominent if the girls were not white, or their parents did not attend college

  • there is no correlation between college attendance and physical size in boys

  • the obese girls had a negative self-image (who would have guessed?), but were also more likely than non-obese peers to attempt suicide, drink, and use marijuana

Of course, the most interesting thing I noticed was that the UT Austin press release specifically says "obese" in all their wording - the Austinist report on the press release uses the word "overweight".

Now, obviously these words mean different things in medical parlance - and might be at the point where they mean different things in the vernacular as well. After all, assuming the study used the (controversial) BMI levels, anyone with a BMI over 25 is overweight, while a BMI over 30 qualifies you as obese. There is clearly a range here.

Crosnoe did the study utilizing numbers from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health; I don't have access to the journal or the time to crunch the numbers myself, but it would be interesting to see just what the numbers are - overweight, obese, morbidly obese, or something different altogether.

I suppose the next step would then be to see whether or not something is being missed, or if it is true that obese/overweight women really do go to college less because of their weight - and if so, what can be done about it?

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