Obesity more common among rural residents than city dwellers

Updated: Sep 15, 2012, 11:48 AM IST

Washington: People living in villages are more likely to be obese than those living in the cities, a new study has revealed.

The study indicates that residential location may play an important role in the obesity epidemic.

Led by researchers at the University of Kansas, the study analyzed data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics, and is the first in more than three decades to use measured heights and weights.

Christie Befort, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Kansas Medical Center, believes that there may be two significant reasons why rural residents are more likely to be overweight - cultural diet and physical isolation.

“There is a definite cultural diet in rural America, full of rich, homemade foods including lots of meat and dessert,” Befort said.

The study, which also examined demographic and lifestyle factors, found that rural Americans typically consume a diet higher in fat.

Rural residents also face challenges to accessing health care, prevention and lifestyle activities.

“Access is often about travel time in a rural area, but it can also be that there’s no place to go—literal physical isolation,” Befort said.

“It’s tough to get to a gym if you live outside of a town without one,” she said.

The research demonstrated that the rural-urban obesity disparity existed in younger Americans, ages 20-39, but not in older age groups.

Befort believes this can be partially attributed to increased mechanization of previously labor-intensive jobs.

“Physical activity is now needed to compensate for diet and technology.

“That requires cultural change because rural areas typically don’t have a culture of physical activity as leisure time,” Befort said.

Befort examined several factors which are thought to affect obesity, including diet, physical activity, age, race, gender, and education.

The researchers discovered that even when other contributing factors are held constant, rural residents were more likely to be obese.

The study is published in the National Rural Health Association’s Fall 2012 Journal of Rural Health.