Original Article

Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 83-99

First online:

Patterns and Associations of Body Weight Among Older Adults in Two Asian Societies

  • Kristi Rahrig JenkinsAffiliated withPopulation Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan Email author 
  • , Nan E. JohnsonAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, Michigan State University
  • , Mary Beth OfstedalAffiliated withPopulation Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan

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Body weight has important health implications across the lifespan. Most recent attention has focused on the obesity epidemic that is occurring in many parts of the world. However, underweight is also a concern, particularly in less developed countries. For most health outcomes there is a curvilinear association with body weight, with underweight and overweight (compared to normal weight) being associated with a higher prevalence of chronic debilitating and life-threatening conditions and ultimately mortality. This paper uses data from two nationally-representative surveys of older adults (aged 60 and older) in the Philippines (1996) and Taiwan (1999) to assess the prevalence of underweight and overweight and examine associations between body weight and demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics in these populations. Older Filipinos have a modest prevalence of underweight (29.9%) and low prevalence of overweight (12.2%), whereas the reverse is observed in Taiwan (6.4 and 29.3%, respectively). Results show generally expected associations between body weight and demographic characteristics, health conditions and behaviors. We find little evidence of socioeconomic differences in body weight, except in the Philippines where higher SES is associated with a lower risk of being underweight. Implications of the results are discussed in terms of healthy weight maintenance among critical subgroups to potentially reduce the prevalence of disease and improve quality of life.


Asia Body weight Diseases Older adults