Objective: This study investigated associations of overweight status and changes in overweight status over time with life satisfaction and future aspirations among a community sample of young women.
Research Methods and Procedures: A total of 7865 young women, initially 18 to 23 years of age, completed two surveys that were 4 years apart. These women provided data on their future life aspirations in the areas of further education, work/career, marital status, and children, as well as their satisfaction with achievements to date in a number of life domains. Women reported their height and weight and their sociodemographic characteristics, including current socioeconomic status (occupation).
Results: Young women's aspirations were cross-sectionally related to BMI category, such that obese women were less likely to aspire to further education, although this relationship seemed explained largely by current occupation. Even after adjusting for current occupation, young women who were obese were more dissatisfied with work/career/study, family relationships, partner relationships, and social activities. Weight status was also longitudinally associated with aspirations and life satisfaction. Women who were overweight or obese at both surveys were more likely than other women to aspire to "other" types of employment (including self-employed and unpaid work in the home) as opposed to full-time employment. They were also less likely to be satisfied with study or partner relationships. Women who resolved their overweight/obesity status were more likely to aspire to being childless than other women.
Discussion: These results suggest that being overweight/obese may have a lasting effect on young women's life satisfaction and their future life aspirations.