The economic gradient of obesity in Mexico: Independent predictive roles of absolute and relative wealth by gender

Lucio Esposito, Adrián Villaseñor, Enrique Cuevas Rodríguez, Christopher Millett

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9 Citations (Scopus)
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Despite the vast literature on the economic gradient of obesity, no study investigates the independent predictive roles of absolute and relative standards of living using a large nationally representative adult sample. This gap limits our ability to discern ‘material’ and ‘psychosocial’ pathways to obesity as well as our understanding of the role played by economic inequality in the growing obesity epidemic. Using a large and nationally representative Mexican dataset, we find that absolute wealth and relative deprivation are independently related to obesity, and that such relationships are patterned by sex. Absolute wealth predicts body mass index as well as abdominal obesity according to an inverted-U shape for both sexes, and more markedly so for females. Relative deprivation predicts higher body mass index for females and higher waist circumference for both sexes, with highly relatively deprived females being 24.29% (95% CI [24.26, 24.31]) more likely to be obese and 34.46% (95% CI [34.40,34.53]) more likely to be abdominal obese, and highly relatively deprived males being 14.91% (95% CI [14.88,14.93] more likely to be abdominal obese. Our results offer a new perspective on the economic gradient of obesity and highlight the potential impact of economic inequality, especially for women. Greater awareness of the independent and sex-specific roles of the absolute and relative facets of economic status is needed to better understand and address the obesity epidemic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number112870
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Early online date21 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Body mass index
  • Gender
  • Inequality
  • Mexico
  • Obesity
  • Relative deprivation
  • Waist circumference
  • Wealth

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