Socioeconomic inequalities in adult obesity prevalence in South Africa: a decomposition analysis

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Mar 21;11(3):3387-406. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110303387.


In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in low and middle income countries. However, there is limited research in these countries showing the prevalence and determinants of obesity. In this study, we examine the socioeconomic inequalities in obesity among South African adults. We use nationally representative data from the South Africa National Income Dynamic Survey of 2008 to: (1) construct an asset index using multiple correspondence analyses (MCA) as a proxy for socioeconomic status; (2) estimate concentration indices (CI) to measure socioeconomic inequalities in obesity; and (3) perform a decomposition analysis to determine the factors that contribute to socioeconomic related inequalities. Consistent with other studies, we find that women are more obese than men. The findings show that obesity inequalities exist in South Africa. Rich men are more likely to be obese than their poorer counterparts with a concentration index of 0.27. Women on the other hand have similar obesity patterns, regardless of socioeconomic status with CI of 0.07. The results of the decomposition analysis suggest that asset index contributes positively and highly to socio-economic inequality in obesity among females; physical exercise contributes negatively to the socio-economic inequality. In the case of males, educational attainment and asset index contributed more to socio-economic inequalities in obesity. Our findings suggest that focusing on economically well-off men and all women across socioeconomic status is one way to address the obesity problem in South Africa.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Africa / epidemiology