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Luxembourg: socioeconomic inequalities linked to obesity

Educational level and obesity was not statistically significant for men, but was significant for women
Age associated with the risk of obesity for both men and women

A Luxembourg study assessing overweight and obesity levels has concluded that both are high, with socioeconomic inequalities most compelling among women. The authors concluded that the fight against obesity should focus on education, with emphasis on the socially disadvantaged segment of the population.

The research, Socioeconomic inequality and obesity prevalence trends in Luxembourg 1995–2007, also examined the relationship between overweight/obesity levels and different demographic, socioeconomic and behavioural factors.

“This is the first study in Luxembourg to focus on the evolution of overweight and obesity in the general population,” the authors note. “Owing to the diversity in the resident population we were able to determine differences in the prevalence of overweight and obesity between Luxembourg natives and foreigners.”

The investigators from the International Networks for Studies in Technology, Environment, Alternatives, Development (INSTEAD), Esch sur Alzette, Luxembourg, examined data from two surveys on household income and living conditions conducted in 1995 and 2007.

The target population was household residents aged 16 years and older. Average BMI, overweight, and obesity prevalence rates were calculated according to each demographic (gender, nationality, marital status), socioeconomic status (educational level, profession, and place of residence), and behavioural (physical activity and diet) factors.

The researchers performed a multivariate logistic regression analysis to measure the relationship between obesity and demographic, socioeconomic status and behavioural factors. All analyses were conducted according to gender, and data used were weighted.

Findings

The data included 5,117 people (51.7% women) in 1995 and 7,768 people (50.8% women) in 2007.

The study found that obesity prevalence increased by 24.5% through the study period (14.3% in 1995 to 17.8% in 2007), rising by 18.5% for men (15.1% in 1995 to 17.9% in 2007) and by 30% for women (13.6% in 1995 to 17.7% in 2007).

The mean BMI for men was 23.4+4 in 2007, who were on average overweight between the ages of 25 and 34. For women, the mean BMI was 22.0+5.5 and on average women aged 45 and older were overweight.

Weight distribution varied by gender and age with the percentage of overweight men decreasing from 46.3% in 1995 to 43.9% in 2007.

Overweight prevalence ranged from 26.2% to 51.5% in 2007 among younger and older men, while obesity prevalence ranged from 7.0% to

29.1% in 2007, respectively, among men aged 16 to 24 and 55 to 64 years.

The prevalence of overweight females increased from approximately 28.9% in 1995 to 29.3% in 2007 and increased with age, ranging between 15.4% and 44.4% in 2007.

Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that the relationship between the educational level and obesity was not statistically significant for men, but was significant for women.

Age was associated with the risk of obesity among both men and women in 2007. This association was absent in women in 1995 and stronger in women than in men in 2007.

The researchers also reported:

  • Marital status was not associated with risk of obesity in both men and women in 1995 and 2007;
  • Nationality was not associated with obesity prevalence among men in 1995 and 2007 or among women in 1995;
  • The association between profession and obesity was statistically significant among men in 2007 and among women in 1995; and
  • Lack of physical activity was associated with the likelihood of being obese in 2007 for both men and women.

Conclusion

The authors said that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is relatively high in Luxembourg, although they noted only small changes between 1995 and 2007.

“Socioeconomic inequalities associated with obesity are important, especially inequality in education among women and professional inequality among men,” they conclude. “The fight against obesity should focus on educating the population at large, with a particular emphasis on socially disadvantaged people. Our findings confirm the influence of lifestyle factors on obesity risk. A sustained policy to fight obesity is justified by the risks associated with this health problem, both in terms of medical expenses and morbidity.”

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