Effects of socioeconomic factors on obesity rates in four southern states and Colorado.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE To examine the association between the increase in body mass index (BMI) and socioeconomic factors (eg, income level, % below poverty line, unemployment rates and persons receiving food stamps) in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and Colorado. DESIGN Data from Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Labor/Bureau of Labor were obtained and analyzed for the years 1995-2008. RESULTS Results from this study showed a strong association between obesity and the tested variables (R2 = .767). Factors more closely related with obesity were: income below poverty level; receipt of food stamps; unemployment; and general income level. The coefficient of determination for these variables were 0.438, 0.427, 0.103 and 0.018, respectively. The highest rate of obesity was found in Mississippi (26.5% +/- 4.13%) followed by Alabama (25.18% +/- 4.41%), while Colorado had the lowest rate of obesity (15.4% +/- 2.63%). By ethnicity, African Americans had the highest rate of obesity (32.64 +/- 5.99%). CONCLUSION We found a significant effect of consumption of low-quality food, due to economic factors, on increased BMI. Besides physical activity, the quality and the quantity of food are important factors that contribute to obesity rates.

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