Cross-national variation in the association between family structure and overweight and obesity: Findings from the Health Behaviour in School-aged children (HBSC) study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSSM - Population Health. 2022, 19, 101127. 10.1016/j.ssmph.2022.101127
Background Trends of increased complexity in family structure have developed alongside increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity. This study examines cross-national variations in the likelihood of living with overweight and obesity among adolescents living with one parent versus two parents, as well as the influence of living with stepparents, grandparents and siblings. Furthermore, the study explores how these associations relate to age, gender and individual-level socioeconomic status (SES) and country-level SES. We hypothesised that adolescents living in one-parent versus two-parents families, were more likely to live with overweight and obesity. Methods The study is based on nationally representative data from 41 countries participating in the 2013/14 Health Behaviors in School-Aged Children study (n = 211.798). Multilevel logistic regression analysis was used to examine the associations between family structure and overweight and obesity by age, gender, SES, and geographic region, among adolescents aged 11, 13 and 15 years. Results Living with one versus two parent(s) was associated with a higher likelihood of overweight and obesity (ORadj.1.13, 95%CI 1.08,1.17). Age, gender, individual-level SES, and living with grandparents were also associated with a higher likelihood of overweight and obesity, whereas living with siblings was associated with a lower likelihood of overweight and obesity. The effect of family structure varied also by age and gender with no significant associations found between living with one parent and overweight and obesity in the 15-year-old age group. Some cross-national variation was observed, and this was partly explained by country-level SES. The effect of family structure increased by a factor 1.08 per one-unit change in country-level SES (OR 1.08, 95%CI1.03, 1.12). Conclusion The study indicates that living in a one-parent family, as well as living together with grandparents, are associated with overweight and obesity among adolescents, particularly in the Nordic European region. Existing welfare policies may be insufficient to eliminate inequalities related to family structure differences.