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Trends in the socioeconomic patterning of overweight/obesity in India: a repeated cross-sectional study using nationally representative data
  1. Shammi Luhar1,
  2. Poppy Alice Carson Mallinson2,
  3. Lynda Clarke1,
  4. Sanjay Kinra2
  1. 1Department of Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Shammi Luhar; shammi.luhar{at}


Objectives We aimed to examine trends in prevalence of overweight/obesity among adults in India by socioeconomic position (SEP) between 1998 and 2016.

Design Repeated cross-sectional study using nationally representative data from India collected in 1998/1999, 2005/2006 and 2015/2016. Multilevel regressions were used to assess trends in prevalence of overweight/obesity by SEP.

Setting 26, 29 and 36 Indian states or union territories, in 1998/99, 2005/2006 and 2015/2016, respectively.

Participants 628 795 ever-married women aged 15–49 years and 93 618 men aged 15–54 years.

Primary outcome measure Overweight/obesity defined by body mass index >24.99 kg/m2.

Results Between 1998 and 2016, overweight/obesity prevalence increased among men and women in both urban and rural areas. In all periods, overweight/obesity prevalence was consistently highest among higher SEP individuals. In urban areas, overweight/obesity prevalence increased considerably over the study period among lower SEP adults. For instance, between 1998 and 2016, overweight/obesity prevalence increased from approximately 15%–32% among urban women with no education. Whereas the prevalence among urban men with higher education increased from 26% to 34% between 2005 and 2016, we did not observe any notable changes among high SEP urban women between 1998 and 2016. In rural areas, more similar increases in overweight/obesity prevalence were found among all individuals across the study period, irrespective of SEP. Among rural women with higher education, overweight/obesity increased from 16% to 25% between 1998 and 2016, while the prevalence among rural women with no education increased from 4% to 14%.

Conclusions We identified some convergence of overweight/obesity prevalence across SEP in urban areas among both men and women, with fewer signs of convergence across SEP groups in rural areas. Efforts are therefore needed to slow the increasing trend of overweight/obesity among all Indians, as we found evidence suggesting it may no longer be considered a ‘diseases of affluence’.

  • overweight
  • obesity
  • socioeconomic position
  • urban India
  • rural India
  • multilevel logistic regression

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  • Contributors The authors’ responsibilities were as follows: SL and SK designed the study; SL performed the data analysis and takes responsibility for the final content; SL interpreted the results; SL drafted the manuscript; PACM, LC and SK reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant number: ES/J500021/1).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The analysis of secondary data was approved by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Research Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All datasets in this analysis are available at