Socioeconomic inequalities in weight status among mid-aged adults : the contribution of perceptions of weight status and weight-control behaviours

Siu, Jessica Ching Yee (2011) Socioeconomic inequalities in weight status among mid-aged adults : the contribution of perceptions of weight status and weight-control behaviours. PhD by Publication, Queensland University of Technology.


Background Socioeconomically-disadvantaged adults in developed countries experience a higher prevalence of a number of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and some forms of cancer. Overweight and obesity are major risk factors for these diseases. Lower socioeconomic groups have a greater prevalence of overweight and obesity and this may contribute to their higher morbidity and mortality. International studies suggest that socioeconomic groups may differ in their self-perceptions of weight status and their engagement in weightcontrol behaviours (WCBs). Research has shown that lower socioeconomic adults are more likely to underestimate their weight status, and are less likely to engage in WCBs. This may contribute (in part) to the marked inequalities in weight status observed at the population level. There are few, and somewhat limited, Australian studies that have examined the types of weight-control strategies people adopt, the barriers to their weight control, the determinants of their perceived weight status and WCBs. Furthermore, there are no known Australian studies that have examined socioeconomic differences in these factors to better understand the reasons for socioeconomic inequalities in weight status. Hence, the overall aim of this Thesis is to examine why socioeconomically-disadvantaged group experience a greater prevalence of overweight and obesity than their more-advantaged counterparts. Methods This Thesis used data from two sources. Men and women aged 45 to 60 years were examined from both data source. First, the longitudinal Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle (AusDiab) Study were used to advance our knowledge and understanding of socioeconomic differences in weight change, perceived weight status and WCBs. A total of 2753 participants with measured weights at both baseline (1999-2000) and follow-up (2004-2005) were included in the analyses. Percent weight change over the five-year interval was calculated and perceived weight status, WCBs and highest attained education were collected at baseline. Second, the Candidate conducted a postal questionnaire from 1013 Brisbane residents (69.8 % response rate) to investigate the relationship between socioeconomic position, determinants of perceived weight status, WCBs, and barriers and reasons to weight control. A test-retest reliability study was conducted to determine the reliability of the new measures used in the questionnaire. Most new measures had substantial to almost perfect reliability when considering either kappa coefficient or crude agreement. Results The findings from the AusDiab Study (accepted for publication in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health) showed that low-educated men and women were more likely to be obese at baseline compared to their higheducated respondents (O.R. = 1.97, 95 % C.I. = 1.30-2.98 and O.R. = 1.52, 95 % C.I. = 1.03-2.25, respectively). Over the five year follow-up period (1999-2000 to 2004- 05) there were no socioeconomic differences in weight change among men, however socioeconomically-disadvantaged women had greater weight gains. Participants perceiving themselves as overweight gained less weight than those who saw themselves as underweight or normal weight. There was no relationship between engaging in WCBs and five-year weight change. The postal questionnaire data showed that socioeconomically-disadvantaged groups were less likely to engage in WCBs. If they did engage in weight control, they were less likely to adopt exercise strategies, including moderate and vigorous physical activities but were more likely to decrease their sitting time to control their weight. Socioeconomically-disadvantaged adults reported more barriers to weight control; such as perceiving weight loss as expensive, requiring a lot of cooking skills, not being a high priority and eating differently from other people in the household. These results have been accepted for publication in Public Health Nutrition. The third manuscript (under review in Social Science and Medicine) examined socioeconomic differences in determinants of perceived weight status and reasons for weight control. The results showed that lower socioeconomic adults were more likely to specify the following reasons for weight control: they considered themselves to be too heavy, for occupational requirements, on recommendation from their doctor, family members or friends. Conversely, high-income adults were more likely to report weight control to improve their physical condition or to look more attractive compared with those on lower-incomes. There were few socioeconomic differences in the determinants of perceived weight status. Conclusions Education inequalities in overweight/obesity among men and women may be due to mis-perceptions of weight status; overweight or obese individuals in loweducated groups may not perceive their weight as problematic and therefore may not pay attention to their energy-balance behaviours. Socioeconomic groups differ in WCBs, and their reasons and perceived barriers to weight control. Health promotion programs should encourage weight control among lower socioeconomic groups. More specifically, they should encourage the engagement of physical activity or exercise and dietary strategies among disadvantaged groups. Furthermore, such programs should address potential barriers for weight control that disadvantaged groups may encounter. For example, disadvantaged groups perceive that weight control is expensive, requires cooking skills, not a high priority and eating differently from other people in the household. Lastly, health promotion programs and policies aimed at reducing overweight and obesity should be tailored to the different reasons and motivations to weight control experienced by different socioeconomic groups. Weight-control interventions targeted at higher socioeconomic groups should use improving physical condition and attractiveness as motivational goals; while, utilising social support may be more effective for encouraging weight control among lower socioeconomic groups.

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ID Code: 50877
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD by Publication)
Supervisor: Giskes, Katrina & Turrell, Gavin
Keywords: socioeconomic position, obesity, overweight, weight change, weight-control behaviours, barriers to weight control, determinants of weight control, perceived weight status, determinants of weight perception
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 Jun 2012 04:30
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2012 14:10

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