More Education, Not Income, Fights Obesity

Release Date: September 12, 2013 | By Stephanie Stephens, HBNS Contributing Writer
Research Source: American Journal of Health Promotion

KEY POINTS

  • Higher education, rather than income, protects women in disadvantaged neighborhoods from obesity.
  • Education level may be associated with greater access to health information and the capacity to understand and use health information.
Follow us on Facebook

Educational status may protect women living in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas against obesity, finds a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

The study adds to previous studies showing an inverse association between body mass index (BMI) and socioeconomic status (SES). Generally, researchers have discovered that women in areas with fewer economic resources have higher BMIs than women in more affluent communities.

Income and education are frequently used as markers for studying health inequalities, although they are “conceptually distinct,” said the new report’s authors. “It is possible that education is a marker of an individual’s access to health information, capacity to assimilate health-related messages, and ability to retain knowledge-related assets, such as nutrition knowledge.”

“Education is particularly important for women with low incomes who live in deprived areas,” said lead author Lauren K. Williams, Ph.D., formerly of the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. Williams said the research team mailed surveys to a large random sample of more than 4,000 women, ages 18 to 45, living in low-income towns and suburbs in Victoria. Women reported height, weight, education and personal income.

The authors wanted to examine the role of amplified disadvantage — defined in the study as having a disadvantage in both education and income — and of status inconsistency, defined as disadvantage in either education or income, on BMI, Williams said.

Women of amplified disadvantage, those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods with both low education and personal income, may be at higher risk for high BMI, the authors determined. Those factors “should be at the forefront of obesity prevention initiatives,” they wrote.

"This is a carefully conducted analysis of Australian data,” said Frederick J. Zimmerman, Ph.D., who is the Fred W. and Pamela K. Wasserman Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Policy & Management in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Because only low-income women were studied, it isn't clear to what extent the results would apply to higher-income women, to men or to non-Australians. It has often been suggested that obesity happens because low-income people cannot afford high-quality food. Yet this study's results suggest an alternative narrative: that it is education, and not income, that constrains people's ability to eat healthfully.”

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required. While the information provided in this news story is from the latest peer-reviewed research, it is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment recommendations. For medical questions or concerns, please consult a health care provider.

For More Information:

Reach CFAH's Health Behavior News Service at hbns-editor@cfah.org or (202) 387-2829.

American Journal of Health Promotion: Call (248) 682-0707 or visit www.healthpromotionjournal.com.

Tags for this article:
Obesity   Environment and Health   Promote your Health   Seek Knowledge about your Health   Women's Health   Health Disparities  



Comments on this article
Please note: CFAH reserves the right to moderate all comments posted to the Health Behavior News Service. Any inappropriate postings will be removed.

No comments have been entered yet.


Add Your Comment
Your name
Your Comment
Characters left:
Check the box to verify you are a human commenter.