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Socioeconomic Disparities Increasing in Teen Obesity

TUESDAY, Jan. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Overall obesity trends among adolescents indicate socioeconomic disparities, with increased prevalence among adolescents with low socioeconomic status (SES), according to a study published online Jan. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Carl B. Frederick, Ph.D., from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and colleagues examined data from two nationally representative health surveys -- the 1988 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and the 2003 to 2011 National Survey of Children's Health. The authors sought to examine changes in obesity among 12- to 17-year-old U.S. adolescents by socioeconomic background.

The researchers found that the overall prevalence of obesity stabilized. However, the trend masked a growing socioeconomic gradient: Among high-SES adolescents, the prevalence of obesity decreased, while the prevalence continued to increase among their low-SES peers. Socioeconomic differences in physical activity levels, as well as differences in calorie intake, may also contribute to the increasing obesity gradient.

"Effective intervention programs to promote healthy lifestyles among young people (especially among lower SES youth) will not only aid in the fight against the youth obesity epidemic but will help prevent other chronic diseases, reduce future health care costs, and pave the way for a healthier nation," the authors write.

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