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Introduction: Low early life socio-economic position is more strongly associated with adiposity among women than men. We examined whether the sex difference of social patterning in general and central adiposity exists before adulthood.

Methods: In Hong Kong’s “Children of 1997” birth cohort, we used multivariable regression to examine the association of parental education, a marker of early life socio-economic position, with body mass index (BMI) (n = 7252, 88% follow-up) and waist-height ratio (n = 5636, 68% follow- up), at 14 years.

Results: Parental education of Grade 9 or below, compared to Grade 12 or above, was associated with higher waist-height ratio z-score particularly in girls (0.30, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19, 0.41) compared to boys (0.12, 95% CI 0.02, 0.22) (p for sex interaction = 0.02). Lower parental education was associated with greater BMI z-score in adolescents of locally born mothers, but not adolescents of migrant mothers, with no difference by sex.

Conclusions: Different social patterning in different markers of adiposity may imply different sociological and biological mediating pathways. A stronger association between low early life socio-economic position and waist-height ratio in adolescent girls may indicate sex-specific influences of SEP related early life exposures on central adiposity.


This article was originally published in PLoS One, available at DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0146198.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) License.

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