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Tackling socioeconomic differences in weight development among youth

The project aims to explore when, how and why socioeconomic differences in body weight develop during childhood. It will also investigate multilevel determinants of lifestyle behaviors and body weight among adolescents focusing on the role of the neighborhood food and activity environments.

About the project

The project aims to explore the longitudinal development of inequalities in body weight between birth and 14 years of age and identify important mediators of these inequalities. Using advanced statistical modeling applied to high quality longitudinal data, the effects of hypothetical interventions on body weight and inequalities of body weight will be assessed. To explore the understudied effects of neighborhood physical characteristics on health behaviors and body weight among youth, a combination of approaches (qualitative and quantitative) will be used. Related social inequalities will be assessed and mechanisms explored.


1. To explore the longitudinal development of socioeconomic differences in body weight among a cohort followed from birth to 14 years of age and assess mediators of these socioeconomic differences

2. To assess the impact of hypothetical interventions on these socioeconomic differences using causal inference methods

3. To explore parents' and adolescents' perspectives of barriers and facilitators of healthy lifestyle behaviors focusing on neighborhood food and activity environments

4. To map food and activity environments and explore their effects on lifestyle behaviors and body weight (and inequalities) among adolescents in Oslo using a multilevel cross-sectional study


Overweight and obesity are a significant public health challenge globally, and disproportionately affect those with a low socioeconomic position in developed countries. Despite an increasing commitment at national and international levels, reducing these inequalities has proved challenging, even in settings considered as egalitarian such as Norway. Such inequalities are particularly problematic among children because of both short and long-term consequences, contributing to a vicious circle of inequalities in health. To address this challenge, there is a need to understand when, how and why these inequalities occur and develop throughout childhood. It is also of utmost importance to explore the understudied modifiable factors that contribute to unfavorable health behaviors leading to overweight and obesity and associated inequalities.


  • Sub-project 1: Secondary analyses of data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study
  • Sub-project 2: Qualitative survey among adolescents and their parents; development and validation of an environmental mapping tool (food and activity environments)
  • Sub-project 3: Cross-sectional multilevel school-based survey among adolescents living in neighborhoods with different levels of affluence


The Research Council of Norwegian - BEDRE HELSE program


  • University of Bergen
  • Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • Norwegian School of Sports Sciences
  • University of California, Los Angeles

Start and finish



Published May 28, 2019 11:38 AM - Last modified Aug. 19, 2021 9:15 AM


Project leader:

Mekdes Gebremariam

Phone: +47

Visiting address

Department of Nutrition, room 3134
Domus Medica
Sognsvannsveien 9
0372 Oslo


Detailed list of participants