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Open Access Research article

Social and cultural factors underlying generational differences in overweight: a cross-sectional study among ethnic minorities in the Netherlands

Karen Hosper12*, Mary Nicolaou1, Irene van Valkengoed1, Vera Nierkens1 and Karien Stronks1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Public Health, Academic Medical Centre - University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 15, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 PHAROS, Knowledge and Advisory Centre on Migrants, Refugees and Health, Herenstraat 35, 3507 LH Utrecht, the Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-105

Published: 16 February 2011

Abstract

Background

The prevalence of overweight appears to vary in people of first and second generation ethnic minority groups. Insight into the factors that underlie these weight differences might help in understanding the health transition that is taking place across generations following migration. We studied the role of social and cultural factors associated with generational differences in overweight among young Turkish and Moroccan men and women in the Netherlands.

Methods

Cross-sectional data were derived from the LASER-study in which information on health-related behaviour and socio-demographic factors, level of education, occupational status, acculturation (cultural orientation and social contacts), religious and migration-related factors was gathered among Turkish and Moroccan men (n = 334) and women (n = 339) aged 15-30 years. Participants were interviewed during a home visit. Overweight was defined as a Body Mass Index ≥ 25 kg/m2. Using logistic regression analyses, we tested whether the measured social and cultural factors could explain differences in overweight between first and second generation ethnic groups.

Results

Second generation women were less often overweight than first generation women (21.8% and 45.0% respectively), but this association was no longer significant when adjusting for the socioeconomic position (i.e. higher level of education) of second generation women (Odds Ratio (OR) = 0.77, 95%, Confidence Interval (CI) 0.40-1.46). In men, we observed a reversed pattern: second generation men were more often overweight than first generation men (32.7% and 27.8%). This association (OR = 1.89, 95% CI 1.09-3.24) could not be explained by the social and cultural factors because none of these factors were associated with overweight among men.

Conclusions

The higher socio-economic position of second generation Turkish and Moroccan women may partly account for the lower prevalence of overweight in this group compared to first generation women. Further research is necessary to elucidate whether any postulated socio-biological or other processes are relevant to the opposite pattern of overweight among men.