Obesity among adult Bahraini population: impact of physical activity and educational level

Ann Saudi Med. May-Jul 2001;21(3-4):183-7. doi: 10.5144/0256-4947.2001.183.


Background: In the populations of the Arabian Peninsula, obesity has emerged as the leading cause of morbidity and mortality over a 25-year period of swift socioeconomic progress. The objective of this study was to determine the body weight distribution, prevalence and risk factors for the overweight and obese in the native adult Bahraini population.

Subjects and methods: A cross-sectional national epidemiological community survey was conducted involving 2013 Bahraini subjects aged 40-69. The males were aged 40-59 years, with a mean age of 49 years, while the females were aged 50-69 years, with a mean age of 59. The sample was adjusted for gender, age, and area of residence distribution. A questionnaire describing the demographic, social, educational status and income status was completed. Measurements were made of height and weight, and body mass index (BMI) was calculated for each subject. WHO classification was used for defining overweight (BMI 25-29.9 kg/m 2) and obesity (BMI > or =30 kg/m(2)) categories.

Results: The age-standardized prevalence rate among native Bahraini men and women was high. Approximately 32% of women and 25% of men were obese (BMI > or =30.0 kg/m(2)). The prevalence of obesity was significantly higher among female subjects than males throughout all the age groups. Overweight and obesity were more prevalent among those with higher levels of education and people with high incomes. A significant relationship was found between obesity and education, physical inactivity and TV watching of 16 hours a week or more. Subjects' self-appraisal and their report of physicians' diagnosis of health disorders revealed a significantly higher prevalence of ill health among obese subjects. There was a progressive decrease of BMI for male and female subjects with age. Although 28% of participants (564) had body mass index > or =30 kg/m(2), only 42% (267) of these obese individuals rated themselves as overweight. In addition, obesity was inversely related to physical activity at work in men.

Conclusion: We conclude that the prevalence of obesity among the native middle-aged and elderly Bahraini population is high. We noted that the prevalence of obesity increased as the level of education increased, which reflects the perception of obesity being a sign of affluence among Bahraini population. There is a necessity to develop an action plan for controlling obesity and its metabolic consequences among the populations of the Arabian Gulf.