Do sedentary behaviors mediate associations between socio-demographic characteristics and BMI in women living in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods?

Women living in deprived neighborhoods are a risk group for overweight and obesity, particularly during the childbearing years. Several socio-demographic characteristics may compound this risk, but little is known about why this might be the case. Sedentary behaviors are emerging as a socio-demographically patterned risk factor for obesity. The purpose of the present study was to assess socio-demographic differences in sedentary behaviors, and to examine whether these behaviors could explain the relation between socio-demographic variables and BMI (BMI) in this risk group.
Women aged 18-46 years were recruited from 40 urban and 40 rural deprived neighborhoods in Victoria, Australia. In total, 3879 women reported socio-demographic variables (age, educational level, employment status, marital status, number of children, residential location and country of birth), sedentary behaviors (television time, computer time, total screen time and total sedentary time), physical activity, and height and weight, which were used to calculate BMI. For each socio-demographic variable, four single mediation models were conducted using two-level mixed-models regression analyses. Mediating effects were examined using the MacKinnon product-of-coefficients procedure and the Sobel test.
All socio-demographic variables were significantly associated with sedentary behaviors. Single mediation analyses revealed that television time (αβ = 0.017, 95% CI = 0.000, 0.030) and total screen time (αβ = 0.006, 95% CI = 0.000, 0.012) mediated 14.1% and 4.9% of the relationship between educational level and BMI, respectively. Total screen time mediated 45.1% of the relationship between employment status and BMI (αβ = -0.020, 95% CI = -0.033, -0.006), and television time mediated 8.2% of the relationship between country of birth and BMI (αβ = -0.008, 95% CI = -0.016, -0.001).
Sedentary behaviors differed depending on socio-demographic characteristics, and partly explained the relationship between socio-demographic factors and BMI in this sample of women. Both television time and total screen time are potential behaviors to target in future programs aimed at reducing socio-demographic disparities in overweight and obesity.

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