Drivers of Overweight/Obesity in 4–11 Year Old Children of Australians and Immigrants; Evidence from Growing Up in Australia


Despite high overweight/obesity rates in children of Australian immigrants, the risk factors are unknown. We investigated behavioural risk factors and their association with overweight/obesity in 4–11 year-old children by immigrant status. We conducted cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of 8 years data from the longitudinal study of Australian children. Immigrant children from low-and-middle-income-countries had higher overweight/obesity rates across all ages. These children had higher vegetables and sugar-sweetened-beverages intake, higher sedentary activities and lower organized-sports participation than immigrant children from high-income-countries or Australian-children. Organized-sports participation and screen-time converged to the Australian norms in 10–11 year-old boys, but not in girls. Preference for sedentary activities and screen-time explained the differences in overweight/obesity by maternal immigrant status in boys but not in girls. The difference in drivers of overweight/obesity amongst immigrant children from low-and-middle-income-countries suggest more nuanced age, sex and culturally sensitive preventive health messages for immigrants.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, but restrictions apply to the availability of these data, which were used under license for the current study, and so are not publicly available. Data are however available from the authors upon reasonable request and with permission of the Australian Institute of Family studies.


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The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children is conducted in partnership between the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the authors and are not endorsed by FaHCSIA, AIFS or the ABS. We thank all the parents and children for their continuing support and participation in the LSAC.


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TZ developed the original idea and planed the study. TZ led the writing and analysis. LS contributed to the idea and planning. CDE and HD contributed to analysis. CDE, LS contributed to writing and interpretation of results. LS, CDE, HD and CB reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Tehzeeb Zulfiqar.

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Zulfiqar, T., Strazdins, L., Dinh, H. et al. Drivers of Overweight/Obesity in 4–11 Year Old Children of Australians and Immigrants; Evidence from Growing Up in Australia. J Immigrant Minority Health 21, 737–750 (2019).

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  • Immigrants
  • Childhood obesity
  • Diet
  • Sedentary activities