Obesity diagnoses in children and adolescents in Norway by immigrant background

Scand J Public Health. 2023 Mar 8;14034948231157951. doi: 10.1177/14034948231157951. Online ahead of print.


Aim: Relatively few obese children and adolescents receive specialist treatment. Our aim was to assess associations between risk of receiving an obesity diagnosis in secondary/tertiary health services by socio-economic position and immigrant background in order ultimately to improve equity in health services.

Methods: The study population comprised Norwegian-born children aged 2-18 years between 2008 and 2018 (N=1,414,623), identified via the Medical Birth Registry. Cox regressions were used to calculate hazard ratios (HR) of an obesity diagnosis from secondary/tertiary health services (Norwegian Patient Registry) by parental education and household income and by immigrant background.

Results: Higher parental education and household income were associated with a lower hazard of obesity diagnosis regardless of Norwegian versus immigrant background. Compared to having a Norwegian background, having a Latin American (HR=4.12; 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.18-5.34), African (HR=1.54; 95% CI 1.34-1.76) and Asian (HR=1.60; 95% CI 1.48-1.74) background was associated with higher hazard of obesity diagnosis. Adjusted for parental education and household income, corresponding HRs were 3.28 (95% CI 2.95-3.65) for Latin America, 0.95 (95% CI 0.90-1.01) for Africa and 1.08 (95% CI 1.04-1.11) for Asia. Within Asia, those with a background from Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq and Iran had higher hazards than those with a Norwegian background, while those with a background from Vietnam had lower hazards, even after adjusting for parental education and household income.

Conclusions: To ensure more equitable treatment, more knowledge is warranted about health-service access and referral patterns, and underlying population prevalence rates, for obese children and adolescents with different immigrant backgrounds.

Keywords: Children; Norway; adolescents; diagnosis; immigrant; obesity.