Objective: To examine 10-year changes in waist circumference (WC) and identify socio-economic groups having higher WC than expected by their body mass index (BMI).
Design: Population based cross-sectional surveys carried out in four regions of Finland in 1992, 1997 and 2002.
Subjects: A total of 9026 women and 8173 men, aged 25-64 years.
Measurements: Waist circumference, BMI, socio-economic indicators (education, household income, employment status, marital status) and health behaviors (smoking, alcohol use, physical activity).
Results: In 2002, women had about 2.7 cm and men about 1.0 cm higher WC than subjects 10 years previously. Waist circumference increased more than BMI among women, especially among unemployed women. Higher WC among non-employed women was not explained by socio-economic indicators or health behaviors. Among men, smaller WC was associated with lower socio-economic status. However, associations partly disappeared after adjustment for health behaviors including physical activity at work.
Conclusion: Socio-economic patterning of WC is divergent and gender-specific. More attention should be paid to increasing waistlines among women.