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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2018 Jun;72(6):491-498. doi: 10.1136/jech-2017-210064. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

Obesity and its association with sociodemographic factors, health behaviours and health status among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults in New South Wales, Australia.

Author information

National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Research School of Population Health, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.
Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Djurupin Health in Our Hands, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
School of Public Health and Social Work, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
The Sax Institute, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



High body mass index (BMI) is the second leading contributor to Australia's burden of disease and is particularly prevalent among Aboriginal peoples. This paper aims to provide insight into factors relating to obesity among Aboriginal adults and Aboriginal-non-Aboriginal differences.


Cross-sectional analysis of data from the 45 and Up Study, comparing obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2) prevalence and risk factors among 1515 Aboriginal and 213 301 non-Aboriginal adults in New South Wales. Age-sex-adjusted prevalence ratios (PRs) for obesity by sociodemographic factors, health behaviours and health status were estimated (multivariable log-binomial regression) for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants separately. We quantified the extent to which key factors (physical activity, screen time, education, remoteness, area-level disadvantage) accounted for any excess Aboriginal obesity prevalence.


Obesity prevalence was 39% among Aboriginal and 22% among non-Aboriginal participants (PR=1.65, 95% CI 1.55 to 1.76). Risk factors for obesity were generally similar for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants and included individual-level and area-level disadvantage, physical inactivity, and poor physical and mental health, with steeper gradients observed among non-Aboriginal participants for some factors (Pinteraction <0.05). Many risk factors were more common among Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal participants; key factors accounted for >40% of the excess Aboriginal obesity prevalence.


A substantial proportion of the excess obesity prevalence among Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal participants was explained by physical activity, screen time, education, remoteness and area-level disadvantage. Socioeconomic and health behaviour factors are potential targets for promoting healthy BMI, but these must be considered within the context of upstream social and cultural factors. Adults with health needs and disability require particular attention.


epidemiology; health Inequalities; obesity

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: EB and BL are supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (reference: 1042717, 1069477). KT is supported by the Lowitja Institute (reference: 1344).

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