Exploring differences in adolescent BMI and obesity-related behaviors by urban, suburban, and rural status

Brittany M. Kirkpatrick, Maryam Yuhas, Jamie M. Zoellner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Data from the nationally representative 2014 Family Life, Activity, Sun, Health, and Eating (FLASHE) study was examined to identify differences in adolescent Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity-related behaviors by rurality status (i.e., urban, suburban, rural) while accounting for relevant demographics (i.e., sex, race/ethnicity, household income). This secondary, cross-sectional analysis included 1,353 adolescents. Analyses included descriptive statistics, one-way analysis of variance, Chi-squared tests, and multiple linear regression models (reported significance level p < 0.05). Rurality was not associated with BMI when controlling for demographics. However, relative to rural adolescents, suburban adolescents had significantly higher junk food, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), sugary food (all β=+0.2, p ≤ 0.001), and fruit/vegetable intake (β=+0.1, p ≤ 0.05). Compared to Non-Hispanic White adolescents, Non-Hispanic Black adolescents had significantly higher BMI (β=+4.4, p ≤ 0.05), total sedentary time (β=+4.1, p ≤ 0.001), junk food, SSB, and sugary food intake (all β=+0.2, p ≤ 0.05). Relative to their lower-income household counterparts, adolescents from higher-income households had significantly lower BMI (β = -9.7, p ≤ 0.001), junk food (β = -0.2, p ≤ 0.05), and SSB intake (β = -0.5, p ≤ 0.001). Contrary to literature, rurality was not a significant predictor of adolescent BMI. While suburban status was significantly associated with several diet-related risk factors, it was not in the direction anticipated. Being non-Hispanic Black and from a low-income household had the greatest influence on adolescent BMI. Findings highlight the importance of using a three-category classification for rurality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101960
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Adolescents
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet
  • Obesity
  • Physical Fitness
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suburban Health
  • Urban Health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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