Open Access Research article

Multiple socioeconomic determinants of weight gain: the Helsinki Health Study

Tina Loman1, Tea Lallukka12*, Mikko Laaksonen1, Ossi Rahkonen1 and Eero Lahelma1

Author Affiliations

1 Hjelt Institute, Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FIN-00014, Finland

2 Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:259  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-259

Published: 22 March 2013



Socioeconomic differences in weight gain have been found, but several socioeconomic determinants have not been simultaneously studied using a longitudinal design. The aim of this study was to examine multiple socioeconomic determinants of weight gain.


Mail surveys were conducted in 2000–2002 among 40 to 60-year old employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland (n = 8 960, response rate 67%). A follow-up survey was conducted among the baseline respondents in 2007 with a mean follow-up of 5 to 7 years (n = 7 332, response rate 83%). The outcome measure was weight gain of 5 kg or more over the follow-up. Socioeconomic position was measured by parental education, childhood economic difficulties, own education, occupational class, household income, home ownership and current economic difficulties. Multivariable logistic regression models were fitted adjusting simultaneously for all covariates in the final model.


Of women 27% and of men 24% gained 5 kg or more in weight over the follow-up. Among women, after adjusting for age, baseline weight and all socioeconomic determinants, those with basic (OR 1.40 95% CI 1.11-1.76) or intermediate education (OR 1.43 95% CI 1.08-1.90), renters (OR 1.18 95% CI 1.03-1.36) and those with occasional (OR 1.19 95% CI 1.03-1.38) or frequent (OR 1.50 95% CI 1.26-1.79) economic difficulties had increased risk of weight gain. Among men, after full adjustment, having current frequent economic difficulties (OR 1.70 95% CI 1.15-2.49) remained associated with weight gain.


Current economic difficulties among both women and men, and among women low education and renting, were associated with weight gain. Prevention of weight gain among ageing people would benefit from focusing in particular on those with economic difficulties.

Socioeconomic position; Weight gain; Follow-up; Adulthood; Childhood; Cohort