Double disadvantage: the influence of ethnicity over socioeconomic position on childhood overweight and obesity: findings from an inner urban population of primary school children

Int J Pediatr Obes. 2008;3(4):196-204. doi: 10.1080/17477160802141846.


Objective: To examine the relationship between overweight/obesity in children, socioeconomic status and ethnicity/cultural background.

Design: Cross-sectional survey of children aged 4-13 years.

Setting: A total of 23 primary (elementary) schools in an inner urban municipality of Melbourne, Australia. Participants. A total of 2685 children aged 4-13 years and their parents.

Main exposure measures: Ethnicity/cultural background - maternal region of birth; socioeconomic position (SEP) indicators - maternal and paternal educational attainment, family employment status, possession of a healthcare card, ability to buy food, indicator of disadvantage (Socioeconomic Index for Areas, SEIFA) score for school; parental weight status. Main outcome measure. Prevalence of overweight/obesity.

Results: Prevalence of overweight/obesity approached 1 in 3 (31%) in this sample. Prevalence of overweight/obesity was greater for children of both North Africa and Middle Eastern background and children of Southern, South Eastern and Eastern European background compared with children of Australian background. This difference remained after adjusting for age, sex, height, clustering by school, SEP indicators and parental weight status; odds ratio, OR=1.57 (95% confidence interval, CI 1.12-2.19) and 1.88 (95%CI 1.24-2.85), respectively.

Conclusions: There is a clear independent effect of ethnicity above and beyond the effect of socioeconomic status on overweight and obesity in children. Further research is required to explore the mediators of this gradient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Parents
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors*