Objective: To examine the geographic and demographic variation in the prevalence of overweight Canadian children.
Research methods and procedures: Using BMI data from the 1981 Canada Fitness Survey and the 1996 National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, this study assessed: 1). the prevalence of overweight and obesity among Canadian boys and girls ages 7 to 13 years; 2). secular trends in the prevalence of overweight from 1981 to 1996, by province and adjusted for age and sex; and 3). provincial variation in the prevalence of overweight, before and after adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.
Results: The prevalence of boys and girls classified as overweight in 1996 was 33% and 26%, respectively. The corresponding figures for obesity were 10% for boys and 9% for girls. Provincial variation was observed with a trend of increasing risk of being overweight from west to east. Socioeconomic status was inversely related to the prevalence of overweight regardless of geographic region. The risk of being overweight was more related to geography (province) than demographic variables (income and family background); however, the effect of secular trends (1981 to 1996) exceeded the effect of geographic or demographic variables.
Discussion: The prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity is increasing in all areas of Canada and can be explained only partially by geographic or demographic characteristics.