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Personal, social and environmental correlates of healthy weight status amongst mothers from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods: findings from the READI study

Abbie MacFarlane, Gavin Abbott, David Crawford and Kylie Ball*

Author Affiliations

Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2010, 7:23  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-7-23

Published: 23 March 2010



Socioeconomically disadvantaged mothers are at high risk of obesity, yet the aetiology of obesity in this group remains poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine the perceived personal, social and physical environmental factors associated with resilience to obesity among mothers from socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods.


Survey data were provided by a cohort of 1840 women aged 18-46 years with dependent children (aged 0-18 years) from 40 urban and 40 rural socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods across Victoria, Australia. Mothers responded to a number of questions relating to personal, social and environmental influences on their physical activity and eating habits. Mothers' weight status was classified as healthy weight (BMI: 18.5-24.99), overweight (BMI: 25-29.99) or obese (BMI: 30+).


Mothers' weight status was bivariably associated with factors from all three domains (personal, social and physical environmental). In a multivariable model, mothers' perceived ability to make time for healthy eating (OR = 1.34) and physical activity (OR = 1.11) despite family commitments, and the frequency with which families ate healthy low-fat foods with mothers (OR = 1.28) remained significantly positively associated with healthy weight status. The frequency with which families encouraged eating healthy low-fat foods remained negatively associated (OR = 0.81) with weight status; ie greater encouragement was associated with less healthy weight status.


Drawing on the characteristics of mothers resilient to obesity might assist in developing intervention strategies to help other mothers in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods to manage their weight. Such strategies might focus on planning for and prioritising time for healthy eating and physical activity behaviours, and including family members in and encouraging family mealtimes.