People living in rural areas are at higher risk of becoming obese, researchers from the University of Kansas have found.
Analysing data from the National Centre for Health Statistics, researchers measured the height and weight of people aged between 20 and 39 living in rural and urban America.
They examined several factors which are thought to affect obesity, including diet, physical activity, age, race, gender, and education. Even when other contributing factors are held constant, the study found that rural residents were more likely to be obese than urban people, according to the findings published in the Journal of Rural Health.
"We simply cannot ignore the link between obesity and poverty, and the disproportionate impact this is having on rural America. If we truly want to decrease health care costs and improve the nation's health status, we are going to have to start viewing obesity as a top-tier public health concern for rural Americans," said Alan Morgan, CEO at the National Rural Health Association.
One of the reasons behind rural people becoming obese is their rich food. Rural people have access to rich homemade food including lots of meat and dessert which contain a lot of fat.
"There is a definite cultural diet in rural America, full of rich, homemade foods including lots of meat and dessert. The study, which also examined demographic and lifestyle factors, found that rural Americans typically consume a diet higher in fat," said Christie Befort, assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Kansas Medical Centre.
Another reason is that in the past all work was done manually by rural people. But now with technological advances a big chunk of work is done by machines, leading to lack of enough physical activity.
"Physical activity is now needed to compensate for diet and technology. That requires cultural change because rural areas typically don't have a culture of physical activity as leisure time," said Befort.