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Socioeconomic status, race, and body mass index : the mediating role of physical activity and sedentary behaviors during adolesence Hanson, Margaret D.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to assess socio-demographic (SES and race) and behavioral factors (physical activity and sedentary behaviors) contributing to adolescent obesity. Methods: 113 adolescents (M=17 years; 42% Caucasian, 56% African-American) were assessed on body mass index (BMI). They reported their physical activity and sedentary behaviors. Caregivers provided information on socioeconomic status (SES). Results: Adolescents from lower SES backgrounds and who belonged to minority groups had higher BMI (r = -.30,p < .01 and t (110) = 3.41,p < .01 respectively). Formal statistical mediation tests revealed that sedentary behaviors significantly mediated the association between SES and BMI (Z = 3.79, p < .05). In contrast, physical activity scores significantly mediated the association between race and BMI (Z = 6.01, p < .05). Gender was also found to moderate relationships, such that physical activity was a more robust mediator among boys, whereas sedentary behavior was a more robust mediator among girls. Conclusions: Results from this study could help clarify the role of physical activity versus sedentary behaviors on adolescent BMI. Interventions aimed at targeting teen obesity could benefit by aiming to increase physical activity in minorities and decreasing sedentary behaviors in low SES teens.

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