Dimensions of socioeconomic position related to body mass index and obesity among Danish women and men

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Aims: The aim of this study was to examine the association between different dimensions of socioeconomic position, body
mass index (BMI) and obesity in the Danish population. Possible interactions between the different dimensions and gender
differences were also investigated. Methods: This was a cross-sectional survey conducted in 2000–2002 including a simple
random sample from the civil registration system, comprising 1953 males and 2167 females aged 4–75 years. Information
about different dimensions of socioeconomic position, height and weight was obtained by face-to-face interview. Associations
between dimensions of socioeconomic position and weight status were examined by use of linear multiple regression
analysis and logistic regression analysis. Results: BMI and prevalence of obesity were significantly associated with education
for both men and women. Odds ratios (ORs) for obesity were 2.9 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.4–5.9) and 6.5 (95% CI
2.3–18.7) for those with basic school as compared with those with long higher education for men and women, respectively.
Women outside the labour market had higher BMIs and a greater prevalence of obesity (OR 2.5 (95% CI 1.6–3.9))
after adjustment for educational level. Conclusions: Education was the dimension most consistently associated with
BMI and obesity, indicating the importance of cultural capital for weight status. The gender-specific pattern
showed a stronger social gradient for women, and indicated that a high relative body weight was associated
with less favourable social and material conditions for women, but not for men. A public health strategy to
prevent and reduce obesity should be gender-specific, focus on groups with short education, and incorporate
cultural norms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Public Health
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)418-426
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


  • Body mass index
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • socioeconomic position
  • socioeconomic status


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