There is little information regarding the trends in body mass index (BMI) and obesity in the overall Portuguese population, namely if these trends are similar according to educational level. In this study, we assessed the trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the Portuguese population, overall and by educational level.
Cross-sectional national health interview surveys conducted in 1995-6 (n = 38,504), 1998-9 (n = 38,688) and 2005-6 (n = 25,348). Data were derived from the population and housing census of 1991 and two geographically-based strata were defined. The sampling unit was the house, and all subjects living in the sampling unit were surveyed. Height and weight were self-reported; the effects of gender, age group and educational level were also assessed by self-reported structured questionnaires. Bivariate comparisons were performed using Chi-square or analysis of variance (ANOVA). Trends in BMI levels were assessed by linear regression analysis, while trends in the prevalence of obesity were assessed by logistic regression.
Mean (±standard deviation) BMI increased from 25.2 ± 4.0 in 1995-6 to 25.7 ± 4.5 kg/m2 in 2005-6. Prevalence of overweight remained stable (36.1% in 1995-6 and 36.4% in 2005) while prevalence of obesity increased (11.5% in 1995-6 and 15.1% in 2005-6). Similar findings were observed according to age group. Mean age-adjusted BMI increase (expressed in kg/m2/year and 95% confidence interval) was 0.073 (0.062, 0.084), 0.016 (0.000, 0.031) and 0.073 (0.049, 0.098) in men with primary, secondary and university levels, respectively; the corresponding values in women were 0.085 (0.073, 0.097), 0.052 (0.035, 0.069) and 0.062 (0.038, 0.084). Relative to 1995-6, obesity rates increased by 48%, 41% and 59% in men and by 40%, 75% and 177% in women with primary, secondary and university levels, respectively. The corresponding values for overweight were 6%, 1% and 23% in men and 5%, 7% and 65% in women.
Between 1995 and 2005, obesity increased while overweight remained stable in the adult Portuguese population. Although higher rates were found among lesser educated subjects, the strong increase in BMI and obesity levels in highly educated subjects is of concern.