Background: Limited evidence exists about the role of education and own educational mobility on body weight trajectory. A better understanding of how education influences long term weight gain can help us to design more effective health policies.
Methods: Using random effects models, the association between i) highest education (n = 10 018) and ii) educational mobility over a 9 year period (n = 9 907) and weight gain was analysed using five waves of data (over 13 years) from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health 1973-78 cohort (from 18-23 years to 31-36 years).
Results: Highest educational attainment was inversely associated with weight at baseline and weight gain over 13 years. Compared to high educated women, those with a low (12 years or less) or intermediate (trade/certificate/diploma) education, respectively, weighed an additional 2.6 kg (95% CI: 1.9 to 3.1) and 2.5 kg (95% CI: 1.9 to 3.3) at baseline and gained an additional 3.9 kg (95% CI: 2.6 to 5.2) and 3.1 kg (95% CI: 2.6 to 3.9) over 13 years. Compared to women who remained with a low education, women with the greatest educational mobility had similar baseline weight to the women who already had a high education at baseline (2.7 kg lighter (95% CI:-3.7 to -1.8) and 2.7 kg lighter (95% CI:-3.4 to -1.9), respectively) and similarly favourable weight gain (gaining 3.1 kg less (95% CI:-4.0 to -2.21) and 4.2 kg less (95% CI:-4.8 to -3.4) over the 13 years, respectively).
Conclusions: While educational attainment by mid-thirties was positively associated with better weight management, women's weight was already different in young adult age, before their highest education was achieved. These findings highlight a potential role of early life factors and personality traits which may influence both education and weight outcomes.
London: BioMed Central, 2014. Vol. 14, 1219- p.