Global patterns in overweight among children and mothers in less developed countries

Jennifer Van Hook, Claire E. Altman, Kelly S. Balistreri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Objective Past research has identified increases in national income and urbanization as key drivers of the global obesity epidemic. That work further identified educational attainment and urban residence as important moderators of the effects of national income. However, such work has tended to assume that children and adults respond in the same way to these factors. In the present paper, we evaluate how the socio-economic and country-level factors associated with obesity differ between children and their mothers. Design We modelled the associations between maternal education, country-level income and urban residence with mother's and children's weight status. Setting We analysed ninety-five nationally representative health and nutrition surveys conducted between 1990 and 2008 from thirty-three less developed countries. Subjects Our sample included children aged 2-4 years (n 253 442) and their mothers (n 228 655). Results Consistent with prior research, we found that mothers' risk of overweight was positively associated with economic development, urban residence and maternal education. Additionally, economic development was associated with steeper increases in mothers' risk of overweight among those with low (v. high) levels of education and among those living in rural (v. urban) areas. However, these associations were different for children. Child overweight was not associated with maternal education and urban residence, and negatively associated with national income. Conclusions We speculate that the distinctive patterns for children may arise from conditions in low- and middle-income developing countries that increase the risk of child underweight and poor nutrition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-581
Number of pages9
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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