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A systematic review of psychosocial explanations for the relationship between socioeconomic status and Body Mass Index

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Maria Almudena Claassen, Olivier Klein, Boyka Bratanova, Nele Claes, Olivier Corneille

School/Research organisations


A negative association between socioeconomic status (SES) and levels of overweight/obesity is consistently found in high- and middle-income countries. Yet, there is little conclusive evidence about the mechanisms driving this association. In this systematic review, we discuss and compare the results of 22 studies that examine the role of psychosocial mediators in the association between lower SES and BMI in diverse population samples. These include factors related to resources and constraints in one’s external neighborhood, social resources, and psychological factors such as stress. The findings support
theoretical models indicating that SES influences BMI partially through environmental and psychological factors. Importantly, SES remains a significant determinant of weight status, indicating the importance of also addressing structural antecedents in order to improve health among low-SES people. We thoroughly discuss the quality and limitations of current study designs and mediation testing and provide recommendations for future research.


Original languageEnglish
VolumeIn press
Early online date12 Sep 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Sep 2018

    Research areas

  • Socioeconomic status, Obesity, BMI body mass index, Psychosocial, Systematic review

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