Did you know that obesity and education are linked? A new study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health reveals that obesity is more common among the lower educated in developed countries. In contrast, the study also finds, obesity is more common among the higher educated in middle-income or developing countries.
The new study was built upon the assumption that obesity
may be linked to increased gross domestic product (GDP) or education as suggested by earlier researches.
The study looked at data regarding individuals' education, age, gender, height and weight from as many as 70 countries. It also took necessary details from previous studies into consideration. Researchers then used different statistical methods to find out the connection between obesity and GPD by education.
The study also found that the connection was somewhat more seen among women than among men. Researchers observe that when a country's economy starts to develop, changes in living conditions take place that largely affect the weight of those with low education.
They also note the type of employment that is being promoted by the economy as playing a key role.
"For example, the earlier literature suggests that low education in poorer countries is associated with limited resources available for excess food consumption, and more physically demanding work. These conditions limit obesity among those with low education in developing countries," says lead author, Jonas Minet Kinge, a researcher at the Institute. Kinge is also working as an associate professor at the Department of Health Management and Health Economics at the University of Oslo.
The authors also explain the situation in the rich countries.
"In rich countries with economies based largely on service and technology industries, most people can afford calorie-rich foods
, and there are, overall, fewer jobs with physically demanding work. This boosts the prevalence of obesity among those with lower education in high-GDP countries," Kinge said.
However, the study couldn't explain why women have a greater presence in the connection between obesity, education, and GDP. This is because the study itself was not designed to examine gender differences.
However, the researchers say that women and men have differing educational backgrounds in many countries. Also, they might be encouraged to walk contrasting career paths. Further, they may be forced to lead conflicting social standards depending on where they live.
The researchers acknowledge that the study cannot fully establish whether it is education and economic growth that affect obesity or vice versa nor rule out other factors included in the study.
Nevertheless, they still claim that the results can be used for health promotion works in both developed and developing countries.
Jonas Minet Kinge, Bjørn Heine Strand, Stein Emil Vollset, Vegard Skirbekk. Educational inequalities in obesity and gross domestic product: evidence from 70 countries. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2015; jech-2014-205353 DOI: 10.1136/Jech-2014-205353