We assessed the 15-year trends in the distribution of body mass index (BMI) and the prevalence of overweight in the Seychelles (Indian Ocean, African Region) and the relationship with socio-economic status (SES). Three population-based examination surveys were conducted in 1989, 1994 and 2004. Occupation was categorized as 'labourer', 'intermediate' or 'professional'. Education was also assessed in 1994 and 2004. Between 1989 and 2004, mean BMI increased markedly in all sex and age categories (overall: 0.16 kg m(-2) per calendar year, which corresponds to 0.46 kg per calendar year). The prevalence of overweight (including obesity, BMI >or= 25 kg m(-2)) increased from 29% to 52% in men and from 50% to 67% in women. The prevalence of obesity (BMI >or= 30 kg m(-2)) increased from 4% to 15% in men and from 23% to 34% in women. Overweight was associated inversely with occupation in women and directly in men in all surveys. In multivariate analysis, overweight was associated similarly (direction and magnitude) to occupation and education. In conclusion, the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity over time in all age, sex and SES categories suggests large-scale changes in societal obesogenic factors. The sex-specific association of SES with overweight suggests that prevention measures should be tailored accordingly.