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Scand J Public Health. 2009 Jun;37(4):418-26. doi: 10.1177/1403494809105284. Epub 2009 May 26.

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

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Department of Nutrition, National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Søborg, Denmark.



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.


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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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