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Friday, November 4, 2005

Study: Socio-economic status and obesity in children


Children living in neighbourhoods with a lower socio-economic status have a greater likelihood of being overweight or obese, according to an article published recently in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

The study examined the relationship between the body mass index of 5 to 17 year-old children and the neighbourhoods in which they lived. This index is a measurement of obesity based on the relationship between a person's weight and height.

It found that children who live in neighbourhoods with higher unemployment rates, lower average family incomes or fewer neighbours with post-secondary education were at a greater risk of being overweight or obese.

The percentage of overweight children varied from 24% in areas with high socio-economic status to 35% in low socio-economic neighbourhoods.

The article found that fewer children in low socio-economic neighbourhoods tended to participate in organized physical activities than children in higher socio-economic neighbourhoods.

In addition, parents living in low socio-economic neighbourhoods were three times more likely than other parents to state that their neighbourhood parks were unsafe.

These findings may indicate that children in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods have fewer opportunities to be physically active.

This study is one of the first to examine the influence of neighbourhoods on a child's weight. Previous research found an association between a family's socio-economic status and obesity and overweight rates among children.

Note: Data for this study came from the 2000/01 National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) and 2001 Census profile. The analysis was conducted in the British Columbia Inter-university Research Data Centre at the University of British Columbia. The Research Data Centres program is part of an initiative by Statistics Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and university consortia to strengthen Canada's social research capacity and to support the policy research community. There are currently 16 centres operating at various universities across the country.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey numbers, including related surveys, 3901 and 4450.

The article "Neighbourhood socio-economic status and the prevalence of overweight Canadian children and youth" has been published in the November-December 2005 issue of the Canadian Journal of Public Health. To obtain a copy of the article, contact Karen Craven (, Canadian Journal of Public Health.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this article, contact Lisa N. Oliver, between 12:30 and 17:30 Eastern (604-291-4821) Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University.

For information about the NLSCY, contact Client Services (613-951-3321;, Special Survey Division.

For information about the Research Data Centre program, contact James Datey (613-941-6385), Research Data Centre program.

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Date Modified: 2005-11-04 Important Notices