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Obesity is socioeconomically, geographically and ethnically patterned. Understanding these elements of disadvantage is vital in understanding population obesity trends and the development of effective and equitable interventions. This study examined the relationship between neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage and geographic remoteness with prospective trends in mean body mass index (BMI) among immigrants to Australia. Longitudinal data (2006–2014) from a national panel survey of Australian adults was divided into an immigrant-only sample (n = 4,293, 52.6% women and 19,404 person-year observations). The data were analysed using multi-level random effects linear regression modelling that controlled for individual socioeconomic and demographic factors. Male immigrants living in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods had significantly higher mean BMI compared with those living in the least disadvantaged. Over time, mean BMI increased for all groups except for men living in the least disadvantaged neighbourhoods, for whom mean BMI remained almost static (0.1 kg/m2 increase from 2006 to 2014), effectively widening neighbourhood inequalities. Among women, mean BMI was also significantly higher in the most compared with the least, disadvantaged neighbourhoods (β = 2.08 kg/m2; 95%CI: 1.48, 2.68). Neighbourhood inequalities were maintained over time as mean BMI increased for all groups at a similar rate. Male and female immigrants residing in outer regional areas had significantly higher mean BMI compared with those living in major cities; however, differences were attenuated and no longer significant following adjustment for ethnicity, individual socioeconomic position and neighbourhood disadvantage. Over time, mean BMI increased in all male and female groups with no differences based on geographic remoteness. Obesity prevention policy targeted at immigrant cohorts needs to include area-level interventions that address inequalities in BMI arising from neighbourhood disadvantage, and be inclusive of immigrants living outside Australia’s major cities.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Open Access Journal Article

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Open Access

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.