Get access

Anthropometric changes in Sweden during the obesity epidemic – increased overweight among adolescents of non-Nordic origin


Agneta Sjöberg, Public Health Epidemiology Unit, Box 454, SE 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden. Tel: +46-31-786-68-50| Fax: +46-31-778-17-04| Email:


Aim:  To compare overweight, obesity and thinness prevalences in adolescents born in 1979 and 1985 and to evaluate the influence of parental migration background.

Methods:  A total of 2306 15- to 16-year-old girls and boys in Gothenburg, Sweden, participated in two cross-sectional surveys (1994 and 2000). Height and weight were measured and interviews about parental origin were conducted. Overweight and obesity were classified according to International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) and WHO. Thinness was classified according to Cole.

Results:  Among girls, the prevalence of thinness decreased, 8.4% vs. 4.7%. The prevalence of overweight, including obesity, according to IOTF criteria, was 11.8% and 13.7% in 1994 and 2000, respectively. The corresponding figures according to WHO criteria were 14.5% and 17.5%. No significant changes occurred between cohorts in prevalences of overweight and obesity. However, when interaction between survey year and origin was tested, there was a significant difference in overweight according to WHO criteria (p = 0.022).

Conclusion:  A shift entailing increased risk for overweight in adolescents of non-Nordic origin was observed, while no changes occurred in the general population. Individual background factors are important to consider both for correct conclusions about health development in the population and for identification of target groups for health-promoting interventions.