Psychological and behavioral predictors of body fat distribution: Age and gender/effects

Tracy L. Nelson, Raymond F. Palmer, Nancy L. Pedersen, Toni P. Miles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objective: Abdominal fat has been shown to be associated with several adverse outcomes including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. Risk factors for abdominal fatness include genetic effects, age, and gender. Most recently, it has been hypothesized that psychological factors, as well as behavioral factors, may play a part in where fat is distributed. The purpose of this study was to assess the longitudinal predictive power of psychological variables (cynicism, anger, anxiety, and depression) measured in 1987 on waist-hip ratio (WHR) measured from 1992 to 1994 among different age and gender groups, as well as to test if alcohol consumption or smoking (measured in 1990) would mediate any of the relationships found. Research Methods and Procedures: Data from the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging (n= 1392; average age: 58 years for middle-aged group and 74 years for older group; 58% female) were analyzed using a maximum-likelihood regression model where age, gender, and age by gender effects were assessed. Results: Cynicism and anxiety predicted WHR in middle-aged subjects regardless of gender. Cynicism explained 2.5% of the variance in WHR and anxiety explained 1.7% of the variance in WHR. Anger predicted WHR in males regardless of age, explaining 4.0% of the variance; depression predicted WHR only in middle-aged females, explain-ing 2.0% of the variance. All analyses adjusted for body mass index, and neither alcohol consumption or smoking status mediated the relationships. Discussion: These findings are suggestive with regard to the hypotheses that certain psychological states and behaviors may be associated with increased abdominal fatness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)199-207
Number of pages9
JournalObesity Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Body mass index
  • Cortisol
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis
  • Waist-hip ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Food Science
  • Endocrinology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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