Social Disparities in Obesogenic Behaviors in Adolescents


DOI: 10.1007/s40615-017-0339-z

Cite this article as:
Fleary, S.A. & Freund, K.M. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (2017). doi:10.1007/s40615-017-0339-z



Demographic and social characteristics, such as sex, race/ethnicity, and income, have been implicated as risk and protective factors for behavior change regarding obesogenic behaviors in adolescents. The purpose of this study was to determine the social disparities in obesogenic behaviors and compare social disparities in obesogenic behaviors between adolescents who are overweight/obese and non-overweight adolescents using an alternative methodology for calculating disparities.


Data were obtained from the 2013 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Systems. Social disparities ratios for meeting fruit and vegetable recommendation, daily breakfast consumption, physical activity, and non-sedentary activity were calculated using the Extended Gastwirth Index Method. Independent sample t tests were used to compare social disparities between non-overweight and overweight/obese participants.


Racial disparities were the largest contributor to overall disparities for meeting fruit and vegetables recommendations, daily breakfast, and non-sedentary activity, while sex disparities were the largest contributor to overall disparities for meeting physical activity recommendations. The non-overweight group had lower free/reduced lunch disparities for all behaviors when compared to the overweight/obese group.


The results of this study confirmed that social disparities exist for obesogenic behaviors. The methodology allowed for the determination of the percentage change needed in behavior to eliminate disparities between groups. These calculations are a useful tool for identifying groups that should be targeted for intervention if disparities are to be reduced.


Social disparities Health disparities Social determinants of health Obesity Adolescents Obesogenic behaviors 

Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human DevelopmentTufts UniversityMedfordUSA
  2. 2.Department of MedicineTufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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