Interplay of socioeconomic status and supermarket distance is associated with excess obesity risk: a UK cross-sectional study

27 Feb 2018

US policy initiatives have sought to improve health through attracting neighborhood supermarket investment. Little evidence exists to suggest these policies will be effective, in particular where there are socioeconomic barriers to healthy eating. We measured the independent associations and combined interplay of supermarket access and socioeconomic status with obesity. Using data on 9,702 UK adults, we employed adjusted regression analyses to estimate measured BMI (kg/m2), overweight (25≥BMI<30) and obesity (≥30), across participants’ highest educational attainment (three groups) and tertiles of street network distance (km) from home location to nearest supermarket. Jointly-classified models estimated combined associations of education and supermarket distance, and relative excess risk due to interaction (RERI). Participants farthest away from their nearest supermarket had higher odds of obesity (OR, 95% CI: 1.33, 1.11-1.58), relative to those living closest. Lower education was also associated with higher odds of obesity. Those least-educated and living farthest away had 3.39 (2.46-4.65) times the odds of being obese of those highest-educated and living closest, with an excess obesity risk (RERI=0.09); results were similar for overweight. Our results suggest that public health can be improved through planning better access to supermarkets, in combination with interventions to address socioeconomic barriers.