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It is important to understand the psycho-social context of obesity to inform prevention and treatment of obesity at both the individual and public health level.
Representative samples of middle-aged adults aged ≥43 years were recruited in Great Britain (GB) (n = 1182) and Portugal (n = 540) and interviewed to explore associations between body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), demographic factors, physical activity, dietary habits (FFQ), life events (LES), Resilience (RS11), Mood (MS), Hopelessness (BDI) and Perceived Stress (PSS4). BMI (kg/m2) and WC (cm) were dependent variables in separate multiple linear regression models for which predictors were entered in 4 blocks: 1. demographic factors; 2. stressful life events; 3. diet/activity; and, 4. psychological measures.
In the GB sample, BMI (kg/m2) was predicted by less education, illness in a close friend or relative, frequent alcohol consumption and sedentary behaviour. Among the Portuguese, higher BMI (kg/m2) was predicted by lower resilience. Being male and less education were independent predictors of having a larger WC (cm) in both countries. Within GB, not working, illness in a close friend or relative, sedentary lifestyle and lower resilience were also independent predictors of a larger WC (cm).
These data suggest that intervention to treat and/or prevent obesity should target males, particularly those who have left education early and seek to promote resilience. In GB, targeting those with high alcohol consumption and encouraging physical activity, particularly among those who have experienced illness in a close friend or relative may also be effective in reducing obesity.