Physician counseling of young adults with rapid weight gain: A retrospective cohort study

Joyce W. Tang, Robert F. Kushner, Jason Thompson, David W. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background. The incidence of weight gain is highest during young adulthood. Our study aims to describe weight gain patterns among young adults and to evaluate physician recognition of and counseling for rapid weight gain. Methods. This retrospective cohort study included patients ages 18-35 at an academic internal medicine clinic between 2004-2008. We conducted chart reviews to determine weight change over time, whether weight gain greater than 3 lbs/year was documented, whether counseling was provided, and whether patients became overweight. We categorized weight gain documentation by location on the problem list, encounter diagnosis, or note text. We categorized counseling as weight-specific or general diet and exercise counseling. We used Chi-square tests to evaluate the relationship between weight change over time and the following variables: gender, diagnosis of weight gain, and counseling for weight gain. Fisher's Exact test was used to test for an association between diagnosis and counseling category. Results. The study included 365 patients. Weight gain was greater than 3 lbs/year for 24% (90/365) of patients, of whom 56 (15%) gained 3-5.9 lbs/year, and 34 (9%) gained more than 6 lbs/year. Among patients gaining more than 3 lbs/year, physicians documented weight gain as a problem in only 10% (9/90). Of the 9 patients for whom weight gain was documented, physicians provided weight-specific counseling in three, and general diet and exercise counseling in four. Of the 81 individuals with no documented diagnosis of weight gain, 63% had no documented counseling, but 34% received general diet and exercise counseling. Among patients with over 180 days of follow-up, 8% (10/126) became overweight. Conclusions. Physicians infrequently recognize or counsel for weight gain among young adult patients. Improving identification of patients with rapid weight gain can provide an opportunity for tailored weight-related counseling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalBMC Family Practice
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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