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Trop Med Int Health. 2008 Apr;13(4):448-57. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2008.02021.x. Epub 2008 Mar 10.

Urban living and obesity: is it independent of its population and lifestyle characteristics?

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  • 1Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Colombo, Sri Lanka. carukshi@yahoo.com

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Living in an urban area influences obesity. However, little is known about whether this relationship is truly independent of, or merely mediated through, the demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle characteristics of urban populations. We aimed to identify and quantify the magnitude of this relationship in a Sri Lankan population.

METHODS:

Cross-sectional study of adults aged 20-64 years representing the urban (n = 770) and rural (n = 630) populations, in the district of Colombo in 2004. Obesity was measured as a continuous variable using body mass index (BMI). Demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle factors were assessed. Gender-specific multivariable regression models were developed to quantify the independent effect of urban/ rural living and other variables on increased BMI.

RESULTS:

The BMI (mean; 95% confidence interval) differed significantly between urban (men: 23.3; 22.8-23.8; women: 24.2; 23.7-24.7) and rural (men: 22.3; 21.9-22.7; women: 23.2; 22.7-23.7) sectors (P < 0.01). The observed association remained stable independently of all other variables in the regression models among both men (coefficient = 0.64) and women (coefficient = 0.95). These coefficients equated to 2.2 kg weight for the average man and 1.7 kg for the average woman. Other independent associations of BMI were with income (coefficient = 1.74), marital status (1.48), meal size (1.53) and religion (1.20) among men, and with age (0.87), marital status (2.25) and physical activity (0.96) among women.

CONCLUSIONS:

Urban living is associated with obesity independently of most other demographic, socio-economic and lifestyle characteristics of the population. Targeting urban populations may be useful for consideration when developing strategies to reduce the prevalence of obesity.

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