Obesity-related behaviours and BMI in five urban regions across Europe: sampling design and results from the SPOTLIGHT cross-sectional survey

J. Lakerveld, M. Ben Rebah, J. D. Mackenbach, H. Charreire, S. Compernolle, K. Glonti, H. Bardos, H. Rutter, I. De Bourdeaudhuij, J. Brug, J. M. Oppert

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OBJECTIVES: To describe the design, methods and first results of a survey on obesity-related behaviours and body mass index (BMI) in adults living in neighbourhoods from five urban regions across Europe. DESIGN: A cross-sectional observational study in the framework of an European Union-funded project on obesogenic environments (SPOTLIGHT). SETTING: 60 urban neighbourhoods (12 per country) were randomly selected in large urban zones in Belgium, France, Hungary, the Netherlands and the UK, based on high or low values for median household income (socioeconomic status, SES) and residential area density. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 6037 adults (mean age 52 years, 56% female) participated in the online survey. OUTCOME MEASURES: Self-reported physical activity, sedentary behaviours, dietary habits and BMI. Other measures included general health; barriers and motivations for a healthy lifestyle, perceived social and physical environmental characteristics; the availability of transport modes and their use to specific destinations; self-defined neighbourhood boundaries and items related to residential selection. RESULTS: Across five countries, residents from low-SES neighbourhoods ate less fruit and vegetables, drank more sugary drinks and had a consistently higher BMI. SES differences in sedentary behaviours were observed in France, with residents from higher SES neighbourhoods reporting to sit more. Residents from low-density neighbourhoods were less physically active than those from high-density neighbourhoods; during leisure time and (most pronounced) for transport (except for Belgium). BMI differences by residential density were inconsistent across all countries. CONCLUSIONS: The SPOTLIGHT survey provides an original approach for investigating relations between environmental characteristics, obesity-related behaviours and obesity in Europe. First descriptive results indicate considerable differences in health behaviours and BMI between countries and neighbourhood types.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e008505
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Epidemiology Preventive medicine Public health


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