Prevalence of overweight and obesity among migrants in Switzerland: association with country of origin

Pedro Marques-Vidal, Peter Vollenweider, Gérard Waeber, Fred Paccaud
Public Health Nutrition 2011, 14 (7): 1148-56

OBJECTIVE: Migrants tend to present higher overweight and obesity levels, but whether this relationship applies to all nationalities has seldom been studied. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of overweight and obesity according to nationality in adults.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional population-based samples.

SETTING: Five-year nationwide interview surveys (Swiss Health Surveys - SHS) from 1992 to 2007 (n 63 766) and a local examination survey (CoLaus Study in Lausanne 2004-2006, n 6743).

SUBJECTS: Participants were separated into Swiss, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish nationals, those from the former Republic of Yugoslavia and from other European and other countries.

RESULTS: Compared with Swiss nationals, German and French nationals presented a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity, whereas nationals from Italy, Spain, Portugal and the former Republic of Yugoslavia presented higher levels. Adjusting the SHS data for age, gender, education, smoking, leisure-time physical activity and survey year, a lower risk for overweight and obesity was found for German (OR = 0·80, 95 % CI 0·70, 0·92) and French (OR = 0·74, 95 % CI 0·61, 0·89) nationals, whereas higher risks were found for participants from Italy (OR = 1·45, 95 % CI 1·33, 1·58), Spain (OR = 1·36, 95 % CI 1·15, 1·61), Portugal (OR = 1·25, 95 % CI 1·06, 1·47) and the former Republic of Yugoslavia (OR = 1·98, 95 % CI 1·69, 2·32). Similar findings were observed in the CoLaus Study for Italian (OR = 1·63, 95 % CI 1·29, 2·06), Spanish (OR = 1·54, 95 % CI 1·17, 2·04) and Portuguese (OR = 1·49, 95 % CI 1·16, 1·91) participants and for those from the former Republic of Yugoslavia (OR = 5·34, 95 % CI 3·00, 9·50).

CONCLUSIONS: Overweight and obesity are unevenly distributed among migrants in Switzerland. Migrants from Southern Europe and from the former Republic of Yugoslavia present higher prevalence rates. This suggests that preventive messages should be tailored to these specific populations.


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