Rural-Urban Differences in Obesity1


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    This project was supported by grant DK4287 from the National Institutes of Health to the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University. The authors thank the National Center for Health Statistics for making the data available for this analysis. The authors also thank Barbara Rauschenbach, Laura Kettle Khan, Thomas Hirschl, David Brown, Frank Young, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


Abstract Obesity is an important social and health issue in contemporary society. Differences in relative weight, overweight, and extreme overweight were examined in rural, middle-sized, and urban areas in a national sample of 11,578 adults in the NHANES II survey. Rural-urban residence and weight were examined in bivariate relationships and in multiple regression analyses controlling for demographic and physical variables. Overall bivariate analyses revealed that some groups in rural areas had higher weights than their more urban counterparts. However, regression analyses showed that many bivariate rural-urban differences disappeared when demographics were controlled, although rural white women and men were still more likely to be overweight relative to their more urban counterparts. These findings suggest that the demographic composition of rural and urban populations explains most, but not all rural-urban variations in weight.