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Obes Res. 2004 Nov;12(11):1851-8.

Multiple dimensions of socioeconomic position and obesity among employees: The Helsinki Health Study.

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Department of Public Health, P.O. Box 41, University of Helsinki, FIN-00014, Helsinki, Finland.



To examine socioeconomic differences in obesity using several different socioeconomic indicators, ranging from childhood socioeconomic environment and adult socioeconomic status to material resources and economic satisfaction.


The data derived from the Helsinki Health Study baseline surveys in 2000 and 2001. Respondents to postal surveys were middle-aged employees of the City of Helsinki (4,975 women and 1,252 men, response rate 68%). Associations between eight socioeconomic indicators and obesity (BMI > or = 30 kg/m(2)), calculated from self-reported data, were examined by fitting a series of logistic regression models.


In women, all socioeconomic indicators except household income and economic satisfaction were associated with obesity. Parental education and childhood economic difficulties, i.e., socioeconomic conditions in childhood, remained associated with obesity after adjusting for all indicators of current socioeconomic position. Indicators of adult socioeconomic status, own education and occupational class, were no longer associated with obesity when childhood socioeconomic conditions were adjusted for. Home ownership and economic difficulties were associated with obesity after full adjustments. In men, the findings paralleled those among women, but few associations reached statistical significance.


Obesity was associated with several dimensions of socioeconomic position. Childhood socioeconomic disadvantage was associated with obesity independently of the various indicators of current socioeconomic position. Associations between obesity and both educational level and occupational class disappeared after adjustment for other indicators of socioeconomic position. This suggests that the variation observed in the prevalence of obesity by these key socioeconomic indicators may reflect differences in the related material resources.

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