Socioeconomic inequality in morbid obesity with body mass index more than 40 kg/m2 in the United States and England

Helen P. Booth*, Judith Charlton, Martin C. Gulliford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
201 Downloads (Pure)


Introduction This study evaluated socioeconomic inequality in morbid obesity (body mass index, BMI ≥40 kg/m2) through an analysis of population health survey data in the United States (US) and England (UK). Methods We analysed data for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Health Survey for England for 2011 to 2014. Age-adjusted odds ratios (AOR) were used to evaluate income- and education-inequality. Results There were 26,898 eligible UK and 10,628 US participants. Morbid obesity was more frequent in women than men, and higher in the US than the UK (men: US, 4.8%; UK, 1.7%; women US, 9.6%; UK, 3.7%). In the UK, morbid obesity showed graded income-inequality in both genders (AOR, for lowest income quintile: men, 1.83, 95% confidence interval 1.16 to 2.88; women, 2.18, 1.55 to 3.07), as well as education-inequality (AOR for no school qualifications, men 2.57, 1.64 to 4.02; women, 2.18, 1.55 to 3.07). In the US, morbid obesity showed a consistent gradient only for income in women (AOR for lowest income quintile 1.97, 1.19 to 3.25). When compared with all other US groups, having college education (AOR, men, 0.56, 0.29 to 1.08; women, 0.36, 0.22 to 0.60) or household income ≥$75 000 (AOR, men 0.52, 0.27 to 0.98; women, 0.51, 0.33 to 0.80) appeared to protect against morbid obesity. Conclusions Morbid obesity is associated with lower socioeconomic status in men and women in the UK. In the US, morbid obesity was twice as prevalent, but less strongly associated with socioeconomic status, suggesting that morbid obesity may now have spread to all but the highest socioeconomic groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-178
Number of pages7
JournalSSM - Population Health
Early online date28 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • Education
  • Health surveys
  • Income
  • Morbid
  • Obesity
  • Socioeconomic position


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