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Increased Prevalence of Obesity in Rural Areas

Last Updated: September 21, 2012.

Rates of obesity are significantly higher among rural adults compared with urban residents, according to a study published in The Journal of Rural Health.

FRIDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Rates of obesity are significantly higher among rural adults compared with urban residents, according to a study published in The Journal of Rural Health.

Christie A. Befort, Ph.D., from the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, and colleagues analyzed obesity prevalence in rural and urban areas using body mass index, diet, and physical activity data from 7,325 urban and 1,490 rural adults in the 2005 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The researchers found that the prevalence of obesity was significantly higher among rural versus urban adults (39.6 versus 33.4 percent; P = 0.006). Even after controlling for demographic, diet, and physical activity variables, the prevalence of obesity remained significantly higher among rural adults (odds ratio, 1.18; P = 0.03). Among both urban and rural adults, race/ethnicity and percent kilocalories from fat were significant correlates of obesity. Among rural residents, being married correlated with obesity, while for urban residents, older age, less education, and being inactive correlated with obesity.

"The findings of this study have significant public health implications for improving health outcomes among rural adults," the authors write. "Although some intervention research has begun to address obesity among rural adults and families, greater attention needs to be focused on dissemination of effective programs to rural areas which contain some of the largest medically underserved communities in the nation."

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