Sociodemographic and health behaviour factors associated with obesity in adult populations in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania.

Jurate Klumbiene , Janina Petkeviciene , Ville Helasoja , Ritva Prättälä , Anu Kasmel

BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to analyse the pattern of sociodemographic variations in the prevalence of obesity in Estonia, Finland and Lithuania. In addition, the association between obesity and selected health behaviours was examined. METHODS: Cross-sectional surveys were conducted among representative national samples of adult populations in 1994, 1996 and 1998. The number of participants aged 20-64 was 3759 in Estonia, 9488 in Finland and 5635 in Lithuania. The data were obtained from mailed questionnaires (covering sociodemographic characteristics, health behaviour indicators, and self-reported height and weight). Obesity was defined as BMI > or = 30 kg/m2. RESULTS: The prevalence of obesity among men and women was 10% and 15% in Estonia, 11% and 10% in Finland, and 10% and 18% in Lithuania respectively. The prevalence of obesity increased only among Estonian men. Obesity was more prevalent among those aged over 50 in all three countries. It was also more prevalent among the less educated women in all countries and among the less educated men in Finland. Obesity was less prevalent among daily smokers among Estonian men and women and Lithuanian men. Physically inactive Estonian women and Finnish men and women were more likely to be obese. CONCLUSIONS: A significant association was found between low educational level and obesity in women in all the countries, but this association was found for men only in Finland. In Finland obesity was also more consistently associated with indicators of unhealthy behaviour than in Estonia and Lithuania. Thus, even though the social gradient of obesity was broadly similar in all the countries studied, differences emerged with regard to the behavioural correlates of obesity.

Eur J Public Health. 2004 Dec ;14 (4):390-4