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The mediating role of dietary factors and leisure time physical activity on socioeconomic inequalities in body mass index among Australian adults

journal contribution
posted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by Emma GearonEmma Gearon, Kathryn BackholerKathryn Backholer, A Hodge, Anna PeetersAnna Peeters
BACKGROUND: The relationship between socioeconomic position and obesity has been clearly established, however, the extent to which specific behavioural factors mediate this relationship is less clear. This study aimed to ascertain the contribution of specific dietary elements and leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) to variations in obesity with education in the baseline (1990-1994) Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study (MCCS). METHODS: 18, 489 women and 12, 141 men were included in this cross-sectional analysis. A series of linear regression models were used in accordance with the products of coefficients method to examine the mediating role of alcohol, soft drink (regular and diet), snacks (healthy and sweet), savoury items (healthy and unhealthy), meeting fruit and vegetable guidelines and LTPA on the relationship between education and body mass index (BMI). RESULTS: Compared to those with lowest educational attainment, those with the highest educational attainment had a 1 kg/m2 lower BMI. Among men and women, 27% and 48%, respectively, of this disparity was attributable to differences in LTPA and diet. Unhealthy savoury item consumption and LTPA contributed most to the mediated effects for men and women. Alcohol and diet soft drink were additionally important mediators for women. CONCLUSIONS: Diet and LTPA are potentially modifiable behavioural risk factors for the development of obesity that contribute substantially to inequalities in BMI. Our findings highlight the importance of specific behaviours which may be useful to the implementation of effective, targeted public policy to reduce socioeconomic inequalities in obesity.



BMC public health



Article number



1 - 16


BioMed Central


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C Journal article; C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2013, Gearon et al.