Public Health Nutrition


Sociodemographic factors and risk-taking behaviour during adolescence and obesity among more than 40 000 Danes

Pernille Frederiksena1, Kirsten E Jensena1 and Susanne K Kjaera1a2 c1

a1 Virus, Lifestyle and Genes, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Strandboulevarden 49, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark

a2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark


Objective The prevalence of obesity has increased in the last decades in the Western world. The aim of the present study was to examine the association between risk-taking behaviour in adolescence and adult obesity in men and women. Furthermore, we wished to describe social differences in obesity in Denmark.

Design Two population-based questionnaire studies (2004–2005 and 2006–2007) were used to collect information on weight and height, sociodemographic factors and factors regarding risk-taking behaviour during adolescence. Data were analysed using multivariate logistic regression.

Setting Denmark.

Subjects Individuals aged 18–45 years (men: n 22 827, participation rate 71·0 %; women: n 20 870, participation rate 81·4 %).

Results The prevalence of overweight and obesity was respectively 37·8 % and 10·6 % in men and 20·1 % and 9·7 % in women. In both sexes, obesity was found to be associated with older age, low level of schooling and living outside the capital centre. In relation to risk-taking behaviour, young age (≤13 years) at first intercourse significantly increased the odds of being obese in adulthood (men: OR = 1·34, 95 % CI 1·04, 1·71; women: OR = 1·66, 95 % CI 1·27, 1·99). In women specifically, young age at start drinking alcohol (≤12 years) was associated with obesity.

Conclusions Sociodemographic factors, in particular age, level of schooling and area of residence, are associated with obesity in both men and women. Risk-taking behaviour during adolescence seems to cluster in both obese men and obese women, however most convincingly in women.

(Received December 16 2011)

(Revised July 20 2012)

(Accepted August 24 2012)

(Online publication October 17 2012)


  • Obesity;
  • Sociodemographic factors;
  • Risk-taking behaviour;
  • Adults


c1 Corresponding author: Email