Open Access Research article

Overweight according to geographical origin and time spent in France: a cross sectional study in the Paris metropolitan area

Judith Martin-Fernandez12*, Francesca Grillo12, Christine Tichit3, Isabelle Parizot14 and Pierre Chauvin15

Author Affiliations

1 INSERM, U707, Research team on the social determinants of health and healthcare, 27 rue de Chaligny, Paris, 75012, France

2 University Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, UMR-S 707, Paris, France

3 INRA, U1303, Research team on diet and social science, 65 boulevard de Brandebourg, Ivry sur Seine FRANCE, 94205, France

4 CNRS, ERIS, Research team an social inequality, 48 boulevard Jourdan, Paris, 75014, France

5 AP-HP, Saint Antoine hospital, Public health unit, Paris, France

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:937  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-937

Published: 31 October 2012



For the first time in France in a population-based survey, this study sought to investigate the potential impact of migration origin and the proportion of lifetime spent in mainland France on body mass index (BMI) and overweight in adults living in the Paris metropolitan area.


A representative, population-based, random sample of the adult, French speaking population of the Paris metropolitan area was interviewed in 2005. Self-reported BMI (BMI = weight/height2) and overweight (BMI ≥ 25) were our 2 outcomes of interest. Two variables were constructed to estimate individuals’ migration origin: parental nationality and the proportion of lifetime spent in mainland France, as declared by the participants. We performed multilevel regression models among different gender and age groups, adjusted for demographics and socioeconomic status.


In women, a parental origin in the Middle East or North Africa (MENA) was associated with a higher risk of being overweight (especially before the age of 55) and a higher BMI (between 35 and 54 years of age), and so were women of Sub-Sahara African parental origin in the middle age category. Only in the youngest men (< 35 years of age) did we observe any association with parental nationality, with a higher BMI when having a MENA parentage. Regarding the association between the proportion of lifetime spent in France and overweight, we observed that, in women, a proportion of 50% to 99% appeared to be associated with overweight, especially after the age of 35. In men, having spent more than half of one’s lifetime in France was associated with a higher risk of overweight among oldest men.


Our results plea for potential cultural determinants of overweight in the migrant and migrants-born populations in the French context of the capital region. Taking into account the people’ family and personal migration histories may be an important issue in public health research and policies on overweight and obesity prevention.