9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN16 Sociology of Health and Illness

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Public Health, Health Promotion and Risk I Building I, 1E2

Parental Education and Adulthood Obesity

Background: Obesity is increasing in Norway, similar to the rest of the world where it has reached epidemic proportions. Less physical activity in daily life and easy access to cheap high energetic food are among the main general causes. In most countries obesity is more prevalent among people of lower than high socioeconomic status. To gain understanding of obesity as a social phenomenon it is important to distinguish between the effects of own educational level versus parental educational level.
Objective: To evaluate the effect of parental versus current educational attainment on obesity in Norwegian men and women between 26 and 49 years.
Methods and materials: Cross-sectional survey data from the Norwegian Lifecourse Generation and Gender study (LOGG). Overall response rate of the study was 60 % (N = 15,156). The analyses in the present paper are based on 10,700 respondents with valid answers to the postal part of the survey. Reliable data on own and parental educational attainment is available through official registers, with few missing cases.
Results: Preliminary findings indicate that educational level of the father has a strong association with adult obesity for women, but not for men. When we control for own educational attainment we find that parental education has both a direct and an indirect association with obesity for women. In Norwegian men only own education has an effect on obesity. We also find that mother's educational attainment has a stronger effect for men than fathers education, while the opposite is true for women. In general both parental education and own education are better predictors for obesity in women than in men.
Obesity leads to many health risks. In addition, obesity is socially stigmatized. Educational attainment is connected both to social status, life chances, psychosocial resources, and culture. We use theories of education and lifestyle to discuss our findings. Why does father's educational attainment influence the risk of obesity among adult women, even after controlling for own education? Why is educational attainment in general a better predictor for obesity among women than among men?