The impact of country of birth and time in Sweden on overweight and obesity: a population-based study

Scand J Public Health. 2005;33(4):276-84. doi: 10.1080/14034940510005653.


Aims: A study was undertaken to investigate the relationship between country of birth, time in Sweden, and overweight and obesity.

Methods: Approximately 4,000 people aged 20-80 participated in a cross-sectional survey in 1994. The ethnic differences in overweight and obesity were analysed in a multivariate logistic regression analysis adjusting for age and education. The effect of number of years spent in Sweden on overweight and obesity was assessed for some of the ethnic groups compared with the Swedish-born group.

Results: Men from Yugoslavia and Arabic-speaking countries were overweight/obese (BMI 25.0-) and obese (BMI 30.0-) to a significantly higher extent than men born in Sweden. Women born in Poland, Arabic-speaking countries, and all other countries were overweight/obese and obese to a significantly higher extent than women born in Sweden. Both Arabic men and women who had immigrated to Sweden in 1989 or earlier had an increased risk of overweight/obesity and obesity compared with the participants born in Sweden, while no increased risk was observed for the Arabic group that immigrated after 1989.

Conclusions: There were significant differences in overweight and obesity between the country of birth groups. The findings follow the patterns of low leisure time physical activity among certain ethnic groups reported in a previous study, which has implications for public health measures directed to decrease differences in overweight and obesity by country of birth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arabs / ethnology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Educational Status
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Poland / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Sweden / ethnology
  • Yugoslavia / ethnology