J Epidemiol Community Health 55:185-190 doi:10.1136/jech.55.3.185
  • Research report

Socioeconomic status and weight control practices in British adults

  1. J Wardle,
  2. J Griffith
  1. ICRF Health Behaviour Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 2–16 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK
  1. Professor Wardle (j.wardle{at}
  • Accepted 31 October 2000


STUDY OBJECTIVE Attitudes and practices concerning weight control in British adults were examined to test the hypothesis that variation in concern about weight and deliberate weight control might partly explain the socioeconomic status (SES) gradient in obesity. Higher SES groups were hypothesised to show more weight concern and higher levels of dieting.

SETTING Data were collected as part of the monthly Omnibus Survey of the Office of National Statistics in March 1999.

PARTICIPANTS A stratified, probability sample of 2690 households was selected by random sampling of addresses in Britain. One randomly selected person in each household was interviewed at their home.

MAIN RESULTS As predicted, higher SES men and women had higher levels of perceived overweight, monitored their weight more closely, and were more likely to be trying to lose weight. Higher SES groups also reported more restrictive dietary practices and more vigorous physical activity.

CONCLUSIONS The results are consistent with the idea that part of the protection against weight gain in higher SES groups could be a higher frequency of weight monitoring, a lower threshold for defining themselves as overweight, and a greater likelihood of deliberate efforts at weight control.


  • Funding: this work was supported partly by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Health Variations Programme.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.