The association of education with body mass index and waist circumference in the EPIC-PANACEA study

Silke Hermann, Sabine Rohrmann*, Jakob Linseisen, Anne M. May, Anton Kunst, Herve Besson, Dora Romaguera, Noemie Travier, Maria Jose Tormo, Esther Molina, Miren Dorronsoro, Aurelio Barricarte, Laudina Rodríguez, Francesca L. Crowe, Kay Tee Khaw, Nicholas J. Wareham, Petra Ga Van Boeckel, H. Bas Bueno-De-Mesquita, Kim Overvad, Marianne Uhre JakobsenAnne Tjønneland, Jytte Halkjær, Claudia Agnoli, Amalia Mattiello, Rosario Tumino, Giovanna Masala, Paolo Vineis, Androniki Naska, Philippos Orfanos, Antonia Trichopoulou, Rudolf Kaaks, Manuela M. Bergmann, Annika Steffen, Bethany Van Guelpen, Ingegerd Johansson, Signe Borgquist, Jonas Manjer, Tonje Braaten, Guy Fagherazzi, Françoise Clavel-Chapelon, Traci Mouw, Teresa Norat, Elio Riboli, Sabina Rinaldi, Nadia Slimani, Petra Hm Peeters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Background. To examine the association of education with body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Method. This study included 141,230 male and 336,637 female EPIC-participants, who were recruited between 1992 and 2000. Education, which was assessed by questionnaire, was classified into four categories; BMI and WC, measured by trained personnel in most participating centers, were modeled as continuous dependent variables. Associations were estimated using multilevel mixed effects linear regression models. Results. Compared with the lowest education level, BMI and WC were significantly lower for all three higher education categories, which was consistent for all countries. Women with university degree had a 2.1 kg/m2 lower BMI compared with women with lowest education level. For men, a statistically significant, but less pronounced difference was observed (1.3 kg/m2). The association between WC and education level was also of greater magnitude for women: compared with the lowest education level, average WC of women was lower by 5.2 cm for women in the highest category. For men the difference was 2.9 cm. Conclusion. In this European cohort, there is an inverse association between higher BMI as well as higher WC and lower education level. Public Health Programs that aim to reduce overweight and obesity should primarily focus on the lower educated population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number169
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • BMI
  • EPIC
  • cohort study
  • education
  • socioeconomic status
  • waist circumference


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