OBJECTIVE: To trace how racial/ethnic and immigrant disparities in body mass index (BMI) change over time as adolescents (age, 11-19 years) transition to young adulthood (age, 20-28 years). DESIGN: We used growth curve modeling to estimate the pattern of change in BMI from adolescence through the transition to adulthood. SETTING: All participants in the study were residents of the United States enrolled in junior high school or high school during the 1994-1995 school year. PARTICIPANTS: More than 20 000 adolescents from nationally representative data interviewed at wave I (1994-1995) and followed up in wave II (1996) and III (2001-2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health when the sample was in early adulthood. MAIN EXPOSURES: Race/ethnicity, immigrant generation, and sex. OUTCOME MEASURE: Body mass index. RESULTS: Findings indicate significant differences in both the level and change in BMI across age by sex, race/ethnicity, and immigrant generation. Females, second- and third-generation immigrants, and Hispanic and black individuals experience more rapidly increasing BMIs from adolescence into young adulthood. Increases in BMI are relatively lower for males, first-generation immigrants, and white and Asian individuals. CONCLUSION: Disparities in BMI and prevalence of overweight and obesity widen with age as adolescents leave home and begin independent lives as young adults in their 20s.
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