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Obesity in rich countries more common among less educated people

In rich countries, obesity is more common among less educated people, while in poorer countries obesity is more common among people with more education.

By
Stephen Feller
Researchers have not determined why GDP, education and obesity are linked, but an extensive study of 70 countries shows a relationship. Photo by T-Photo/Shutterstock
Researchers have not determined why GDP, education and obesity are linked, but an extensive study of 70 countries shows a relationship. Photo by T-Photo/Shutterstock

OSLO, Norway, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Obesity, education and a country's gross domestic product are related, researchers found in a recent study, supporting evidence from previous studies that as a country gets richer its people tend to get more obese.

In addition to connecting increasing obesity to GDP, researchers found education is also connected -- in rich countries, obesity is more common among people with lower education, while in poorer countries obesity is more common among people with higher education.

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"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," said Jonas Minet Kinge, an associate professor at the University of Oslo, in a press release. "This boosts the prevalence of obesity among those with lower education in high GDP countries."

The researchers collected data on 412,921 people from 70 countries between 2002 and 2013. GDP was used as a measure of economic development, and country-specific differences in education were used when considering the assembled data.

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The data showed in countries with higher GDP, people less education had higher incidence of obesity. In the countries with lower GDP, however, the data showed people with more education had higher rates of obesity. The association was found to be stronger among women than men. Researchers did not factor gender into the analysis, though they proposed that different educational backgrounds, and different norms and ideals in their countries, may play a role.

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The researchers also noted the study does not show causality. In addition to being unsure of the effects of other causes, the researchers also said they were unsure whether GDP and education cause obesity or vice versa. They said, however, that obesity and health education should be receive more attention in developing countries.

The study is published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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