Food insecurity and obesity in Victoria — ASN Events

Food insecurity and obesity in Victoria (#115)

Alison Markwick 1 , Zahid Ansari , Loretta Vaughan , Sharon Laurence , Colin Sindall
  1. Department of Health, Melbourne, Vic, Australia


We investigated the association between body weight status and food insecurity in Victoria among males and females aged 18 years and over, taking into account the influence of socioeconomic status (SES), lifestyle risk factors, social support networks, and household composition.


The Victorian Population Health Survey is a population representative health survey conducted annually using landline computer-assisted telephone interviews. In 2012, we interviewed 33,673 randomly selected Victorians aged 18 years and older who lived in private dwellings. We categorised a respondent as being food insecure, if in the previous 12 months, they reported having run out of food and could not afford to buy more. We calculated body mass index (BMI) from self-reported height and weight, and determined the respondent’s weight status according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization; overweight = 25.0–29.9 kg/m2 and obesity ≥ 30 kg/m2.

We used multivariable logistic regression and adjusted for the potential confounders of age, sex, SES (household income), lifestyle risk factors (smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, physical inactivity), lack of social support networks (inability to get help from family, friends or neighbours), and household composition (sole parent status).


Food insecurity was significantly associated with obesity in both males and females, crude odds ratio (OR) = 1.7; 95% confidence interval (1.3 - 2.2). Age negatively confounded the association; adjusted odds ratio (ORadj)= 2.3 (1.7 - 3.0). Although household income, smoking, inability to get help from family, friends or neighbours and being a sole parent were also significantly associated with food insecurity, they did not affect the ORadj for obesity.   


Food insecurity was associated with a higher prevalence of obesity in both males and females. Household income, smoking, lack of social support and being a sole parent, neither mediated nor explained the relationship between food insecurity and obesity.