Introduction: Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States; however, "Hispanic" is a broad term that describes people who are from or whose ancestors are from multiple countries of origin. This study examines, separately, the social, cultural, and behavioral factors associated with overweight and obesity among Mexican American adults and among Central American adults.
Methods: To estimate the prevalence of overweight and obesity among Mexican and Central Americans living in California, we conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from the 2001 California Health Interview Survey using SUDAAN software to account for the survey's multistage sampling design.
Results: Of the 8304 Mexican Americans participating in the survey, 36.8% were overweight and 26.2% were obese. Of the 1019 Central Americans, 39.2% were overweight and 22.2% were obese. Among Mexican American men, age and marital status were associated with overweight and obesity; and education, acculturation, health insurance status, health status, and use of vitamins were associated with obesity only. Among Mexican American women, age, education, number of children, health status, and health behavior were associated with overweight and obesity. Among Central American men, age, education, and access to health care were associated with overweight, whereas marital status, acculturation, health care, and binge drinking were associated with obesity. Among Central American women, number of children was associated with overweight and obesity; and age and education were associated with obesity only.
Conclusion: Our findings of high rates of overweight and obesity among Mexican and Central Americans in California indicate the need for a wide variety of effective weight-loss interventions targeting these populations, and the differences we found in the factors associated with overweight and obesity may suggest the need for unique intervention strategies for different Hispanic subgroups.