The concern of overweight among the adult population in contemporary Spain: results from the national health surveys

Antonio D. Cámara, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Jeroen J.A. Spijker, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

Overweight has currently become a major concern for Spanish health authorities. The majority of the Spanish population did not attain a proper food intake level until the 1950s. Today, however, many suffer problems associated with overweight as a result of changing nutritional habits that came with the political, social, economic and cultural shifts that Spain experienced over the last three decades. While much of the literature and media attention concerns recent trends in overweight among infants and adolescents, the problem is not exclusively confined to young people. Our objective is therefore to analyse in more detail the adult population, which we will do applying a proxy to an age-time-cohort approach that will enable us to establish the extent of overweight among the population and to identify which birth-cohorts and age-groups are most affected. Since 1987 Spain has held seven National Health Surveys (NHS) aimed at providing information on the population’s health status. While Spain lacks panel data and previous studies have focused on either specific regions or one moment in time, by aggregating the different editions into one database, it provided us with the unique possibility to analyse both changes in health and health-related behaviour over time as well as within and between birth cohorts. After harmonising the relevant survey items for our study and correcting both sample bias and coding errors we analysed the changing age-, sex- and cohort trends of two nutritional status indicators, weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) (i.e. to correct for differences in height). Results showed that both overweight and obesity increased, although we observed important age, cohort and gender differences. For instance, between 1987 and 2003 most increases in BMI occurred among men aged 30 to 79 and women between ages 60 and 79.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 38: Risk Factors, Diseases and Mortality