Although much research has been conducted on the role adult body mass index (BMI) plays in mortality, there have been fewer studies that evaluated the associations of BMI in young adulthood and adult weight trajectory with mortality, and it remains uncertain whether associations differ by race or sex. We prospectively examined the relationships of BMI in young adulthood (21 years of age) and adult obesity trajectory with later-life mortality rates among 75,881 men and women in the Southern Community Cohort Study. Study participants were enrolled between 2002 and 2009 at ages 40-79 years and were followed through December, 2011. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals. There were 7,301 deaths in the 474,970 person-years of follow-up. Participants who reported being overweight or obese as young adults had mortality rates that were 19% (95% confidence interval: 12, 27) and 64% (95% confidence interval: 52, 78) higher, respectively, than those of their normal weight counterparts. The results did not significantly differ by race or sex. Participants who reported being obese in young adulthood only or in both young and middle adulthood experienced mortality rates that were 40%-90% higher than those of participants who were nonobese at either time. These results suggest that obesity in young adulthood is associated with higher mortality risk regardless of race, sex, and obesity status in later life.
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