Does social status predict adult smoking and obesity? Results from the 2000 Mexican national health survey

A. M. Buttenheim, R. Wong, N. Goldman, A. R. Pebley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Socioeconomic status is generally associated with better health, but recent evidence suggests that this 'social gradient' in health is far from universal. This study examines whether social gradients in smoking and obesity in Mexico - a country in the midst of rapid socioeconomic change - conform to or diverge from results for richer countries. Using a nationally representative sample of 39,129 Mexican adults, we calculate the odds of smoking and of being obese by educational attainment and by household wealth. We conclude that socioeconomic determinants of smoking and obesity in Mexico are complex, with some flat gradients and some strong positive or negative gradients. Higher social status (education and assets) is associated with more smoking and less obesity for urban women. Higher status rural women also smoke more, but obesity for these women has a non-linear relationship to education. For urban men, higher asset levels (but not education) are associated with obesity, whereas education is protective of smoking. Higher status rural men with more assets are more likely to smoke and be obese. As household wealth, education and urbanisation continue to increase in Mexico, these patterns suggest potential targets for public health intervention now and in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-426
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2010


  • Chronic disease risk factors
  • Mexico
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Social disparities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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