Multilevel Effects of Socioeconomic Status and Income Inequality on Obesity among Chinese Adults

Libin Zhang, University of Massachusetts at Boston
Tim Futing Liao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Although the obesity epidemic has been consistently observed in both developed and developing countries, social determinants of obesity in developing countries remain poorly understood. This study examines multilevel social determinants of obesity in China. By bringing together the literature on the SES gradients in health and the income inequality effects on health, we analyze the 2006 China Health and Nutrition Survey data to understand the effects of individual- and area-level socioeconomic status and income inequality on obesity. We find that at the individual-level, adjusting for demographic characteristics, income and wealth are positively associated with obesity, whereas education and manual occupation are negatively associated with obesity, while relative income has no effect on obesity. At the area-level, adjusting for community characteristics, income inequality is inversely associated with obesity. Therefore, patterns of how SES and inequality affect obesity risks in a developing country can be uniquely different from that in developed societies.

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Presented in Poster Session 7