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Eur J Public Health. 2006 Feb;16(1):36-40. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

The social patterning of relative body weight and obesity in Denmark and Finland.

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Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Finland.



Relative body weight is typically inversely associated with social status in affluent societies but studies comparing the social patterning of relative body weight and obesity in different countries have only seldom been conducted. The aim of this study was to analyse and compare the social patterning of relative weight and obesity by occupational status, educational attainment and marital status between Danish and Finnish women and men.


Data from the Finnish Survey on Living Conditions and the Danish Health and Morbidity Survey, both collected in 1994, were compared. Relative weight was studied by using body mass index (BMI), and those with BMI > or =30 kg/m(2) were regarded as obese. Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the social patterning of obesity in the pooled dataset. Two-variable interaction effects were tested separately.


Compared with their Danish counterparts, Finnish women and men had higher average relative weight and they were more often obese. There were no country differences in the socio-economic patterning of obesity by educational attainment, but a stronger patterning of obesity by occupational status was found among Danish women. Moreover, non-married women in Denmark were more likely to be obese than their married counterparts.


Finns have higher relative weight and they are more often obese than Danes. The social patterning of obesity was similar in both studied countries but stronger in Denmark.

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