• France;
  • obesity;
  • social inequalities;
  • trends


This paper examines trends in obesity rates and education-related absolute and relative inequalities in obesity over the last 40 years in France. Data are drawn from the French Decennial Health Surveys of 1970, 1980, 1991 and 2003. The difference in obesity rates between the least- and most-educated, the Slope Index of Inequality, is used to estimate absolute inequalities in obesity. The ratio of the corresponding rates, the Relative Index of Inequality, reveals the relative inequalities in obesity. Obesity rates were similar in men and women, but educational inequalities were greater in women. Obesity rates were similar over the first three surveys but increased for all in the 2003 survey. This increase was accompanied by increases in absolute inequalities in men (P = 0.04) from a Slope Index of Inequality of 4.80% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.27, 7.32) to 8.64% (95% CI = 5.97, 11.32) and women (P = 0.004) from 8.90% (95% CI = 6.18, 11.63) to 14.57% (95% CI = 11.83, 17.32). Relative inequalities in obesity remained stable over the 40 years. Recent increase in obesity rates in France is accompanied by increases in absolute education-related inequalities, while relative inequalities have remained stable; this suggests that obesity rates have increased at a much faster rate in the low-education groups.