All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Elizabeth H Baker

Advisory Committee Members

Belinda L Needham

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


This thesis serves two main research objectives. The first objective is to examine the extent to which higher weight status is patterned by indicators of socioeconomic status. The second objective is to explore the involvement of social relationships in the association between socioeconomic status and weight status. I use a theoretical framework incorporating aspects of fundamental cause theory and insights from the literature on social relationships and health. Data for this study were obtained from the 2003-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (n = 3,957). The analytic sample focused on Black and White respondents over the age of 40. Higher weight status, was operationalized in two ways: a continuous measurement of body mass index and a dichotomous obesity indicator. SES measurements included educational attainment, income to poverty ratio, and home ownership. Social relationships were measured by emotional support, financial support, and number of close friends. Ordinary least squares regression models were conducted for the continuous measure of BMI and logistic regression models for the dichotomous obesity indicator. Findings suggest that associations of social factors with higher weight status are complex, especially in terms of gender. Education has the most consistent inverse associations with higher weight status for both genders but income and home ownership do not follow the same pattern. Income appears to be a protective factor for women but not for men while home ownership is positively associated with men's higher weight status. The association between social relationships and higher weight status is inconsistent. Financial support is the only social relationship variable that is significantly associated with weight status for both genders. However, the direction of results for emotional support and number of close friends suggests that women and men may seek out different resources to compensate for disadvantages in socioeconomic status. In conclusion, results show that indicators of socioeconomic status and social relationships are associated with higher weight status. However, both sets of social factors have varied associations with higher weight status by gender. The use of multiple theoretical perspectives in this study offers a more integrated framework for examining the complexities of higher weight status.



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