Resilience to obesity among socioeconomically disadvantaged women: The READI study

K. Ball, G. Abbott, V. Cleland, A. Timperio, L. Thornton, G. Mishra, R. W. Jeffery, J. Brug, A. King, D. Crawford

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Objective: This cross-sectional study aimed to identify sociodemographic and behavioural characteristics of overweight-resilient women, that is, women who were in a healthy body weight range, despite living in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods that place them at increased risk of obesity. The study also aimed to test a comprehensive theoretically derived model of the associations between intrapersonal, social and environmental factors and obesity among this target group.Participants:A total of 3235 women aged 18-45 years from 80 urban and rural neighbourhoods throughout Victoria, Australia, participated in the Resilience for Eating and Activity Despite Inequality study.Measurements:Women reported height, weight, sociodemographic characteristics, leisure-time physical activity, dietary behaviours and a range of theoretically derived cognitive, social and neighbourhood environmental characteristics hypothesized to influence obesity risk. A theoretical model predicting body mass index (BMI) was tested using structural equation models. Results: Women classified as resilient to obesity tended to be younger, born overseas, more highly educated, unmarried and to have higher or undisclosed household incomes. They engaged in more leisure-time physical activity and consumed less fast foods and soft drinks than overweight/obese women. Neighbourhood characteristics, social characteristics and cognitive characteristics all contributed to explaining variation in BMI in the hypothesized directions.Conclusions:These results demonstrate several characteristics of women appearing resilient to obesity, despite their increased risk conferred by residing in socioeconomically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Acknowledging the cross-sectional study design, the results advance theoretical frameworks aimed at investigating obesity risk by providing evidence in support of a comprehensive model of direct and indirect effects on obesity of neighbourhood, as well as social, cognitive and behavioural characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-865
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Obesity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The READI study was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, ID 374241. We are grateful to Michelle Jackson for managing the READI field-work. KB is supported by a NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship, ID 479513. VC is supported by a NHMRC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, ID 533917. AT is supported by a VicHealth Public Health Research, ID 2004-0536. LT is supported by a NHMRC Capacity Building Grant, ID 425845. GM is supported by NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Women’s Health in the 21st Century (CREWH21). RWJ was supported by the University of Minnesota Obesity Prevention Center, the Minnesota Obesity Center and the Transdisciplinary Center for the Study of Energetics and Cancer, all at the University of Minnesota. AK was supported in part by US Public Health Service Grants R21CA127511, R01HL089694 and U01AG022376. DC is supported by a VicHealth Senior Research Fellowship.


  • obesity risk factors
  • socioeconomic disadvantage
  • structural equation models


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