Individual, social and environmental factors and their association with weight in rural-dwelling women

Cheryce L. Harrison, Helena J. Teede, Samantha Kozica, Sophia Zoungas, Catherine B. Lombard

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OBJECTIVE: Obesity is a major public health concern and women living in rural settings present a high-risk group. With contributing factors poorly explored, we evaluated their association with weight in rural Australian women.

METHODS: Women aged 18-50 years of any body mass index (BMI) were recruited between October 2012 and April 2013 as part of a larger, randomised controlled trial within 42 rural towns. Measured weight and height as well as self-reported measures of individual health, physical activity, dietary intake, self-management, social support and environmental perception were collected. Statistical analysis included linear regression for continuous variables as well as chi-squared and logistic regression for categorical variables with all results adjusted for clustering.

RESULTS: 649 women with a mean baseline age and BMI of 39.6±6.7 years and 28.8±6.9 kg/m2 respectively, were studied. Overall, 65% were overweight or obese and 60% overall reported recent weight gain. There was a high intention to self-manage weight, with 68% attempting to lose weight recently, compared to 20% of women reporting health professional engagement for weight management. Obese women reported increased weight gain, energy intake, sitting time and prevalence of pre-existing health conditions. There was an inverse relationship between increased weight and scores for self-management, social support and health environment perception.

CONCLUSIONS: Many women in rural communities reported recent weight gain and were attempting to self-manage their weight with little external support. Implications for Public Health: Initiatives to prevent weight gain require a multifaceted approach, with self-management strategies and social support in tandem with building a positive local environmental perception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-164
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • Environment
  • Health behaviours
  • Rural
  • Social support
  • Weight
  • Women

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