London: In poor countries, obesity is more common among the higher educated, while in rich countries, obesity is more common among the lesser educated, new research has found.
"When countries become richer, changes in living conditions occur that predominantly affect the weight of those with low education," said lead author Jonas Minet Kinge, associate professor at the University of Oslo in Norway.
"For example, 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," Kinge explained.
The aim of this new study was to explore the assumption from previous studies that obesity is linked to gross domestic product (GDP) and education. In total, data from 70 countries was included.
The results from this study confirmed that there is an association between obesity, education and GDP.
The prevalence of obesity increases with rising GDP, but only among individuals with lower levels of education, the findings showed.
There is no significant increase in obesity among those with higher education. In countries with low GDP there is more obesity among those with high education, the study showed.
On the other hand, in countries with high GDP there is more obesity among those with low education.
The study also found that the relationship was somewhat more marked among women than among men.
"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 noted.
The findings appeared in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.