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BMI and health-related behaviors in a national cohort of 87,134 Thai open university students.
  1. Cathy Banwell1,
  2. Lynette Lim1,
  3. Sam-Ang Seubsman2,
  4. Chris Bain3,
  5. Jane Dixon1,
  6. Adrian Sleigh1
  1. 1 Australian National University, Australia;
  2. 2 Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, Australia;
  3. 3 University of Queensland, Thailand
  1. E-mail: cathy.banwell{at}


Background: Thailand is undergoing a health-risk transition with overweight and obesity emerging as an important population health problem. This paper reports on a study of the transition focusing on 'lifestyle' factors such as diet (fried foods, soft drinks, western style fast foods) and physical activity (mild, moderate, strenuous exercise, housework/gardening and screen time).

Methods: A baseline survey was administered to 87, 134 adult students from all regions of Thailand attending an open university.

Results: Fifty-four percent of the cohort was female. Participants' median age was 29 years. By self-reported Asian standards, 16% of the sample was obese (Body Mass Index or BMI≥ 25) and 15% overweight at risk (BMI≥ 23 -24.9). Men were twice as likely as women to be overweight (21% to 9%) or obese (23% to 10%). Obesity was associated with urban residence, doing little housework or gardening and with spending more than 4 hours a day watching television or using computers. The latter occurs among 30% of the cohort with a Population Attributable Fraction (PAF) suggesting it accounts for 11% of the current problem. Daily consumption of fried food was associated with obesity, and eating fried foods every second day or daily had a PAF of nearly 20%.

Conclusions: These health-related behaviors underpinning the Thai health transition are associated with increasing obesity. They are modifiable through policies addressing structural issues and with targeted health promotion activities to prevent future obesity gains. Insights into future trends in the Thai health transition can be gained as this student cohort ages.

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