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Which aspects of socioeconomic status are related to obesity among men and women?


OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to investigate the relationships between body weight and fat distribution, and four empirically derived domains of socioeconomic status: employment, housing, migration status and family unit.

DESIGN: A population-based study was used.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 8667 randomly-selected adults (4167 men; 4500 women) who participated in the 1995 Australian National Health and Nutrition Surveys provided data on a range of health factors including objective height, weight and body fat distribution, and a range of sociodemographic indicators.

RESULTS: Results demonstrated associations for women, after controlling for age, between the employment domain, and body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio. Low status employed women were 1.4 times as likely to be overweight as high status employed women. There were less consistent relationships observed among these factors for men. Relationships between family unit and indicators of body weight and body fat distribution were observed for both men and women, with those who were married, particularly men (OR=1.6, 95% CI 1.4–2.0), at higher risk of overweight. The migration and housing socioeconomic status domains were not consistently associated with body mass index or waist-to-hip ratio.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that different components of socioeconomic status may be important in predicting obesity, and thus should be examined separately. Future research would benefit from investigating the underlying mechanisms governing the relationships between socioeconomic status domains further, particularly those related to employment and family unit and obesity.

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Kylie Ball is supported by a Public Health Postdoctoral Research Fellowship from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. David Crawford is supported by a Nutrition Research Fellowship from the National Heart Foundation of Australia.

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Ball, K., Mishra, G. & Crawford, D. Which aspects of socioeconomic status are related to obesity among men and women?. Int J Obes 26, 559–565 (2002).

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  • socioeconomic status
  • body mass index
  • national nutrition survey

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