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Keywords:

  • children;
  • socioeconomic status;
  • Australia

Abstract

Objective: The objective was to determine the prevalences of overweight and obesity in regional Australian children and to examine the association between BMI and indicators of socioeconomic status (SES).

Research Methods and Procedures: Regionally representative cross-sectional survey of 2184 children, 4 to 12 years of age, was conducted, and the socio-demographic characteristics of their parents from regional Victoria, Australia, 2003 to 2004, were obtained.

Results: The prevalences of overweight and obesity were 19.3 ± 0.8% (proportion ± standard error) and 7.6 ± 0.6%, respectively, using international criteria, and the proportion of overweight/obese girls was significantly higher than that of boys (29.6 ± 1.4% vs. 23.9 ± 1.3%, χ2 = 9.01, p = 0.003). Children from households of lower SES had higher odds of being overweight/obese; lower SES was defined by lower paternal education (adjusted odds ratio, 1.18; 95% confidence interval, 1.08 to 1.30) and lower area-level SES (adjusted odds ratio, 1.13; 95% confidence interval, 1.02 to 1.25), adjusted for age, gender, height, and clustering by school.

Discussion: The prevalences of overweight and obesity are increasing in Australian children by about one percentage point per year. This equates to ∼40,000 more overweight children each year, placing Australian children among those at highest risk around the world. In addition, girls are more likely to be overweight, and there is a general trend for children of lower SES to be at even greater risk of overweight and obesity.