Deprivation Matters: Understanding Associations Between Neighbourhood Deprivation, Unhealthy Food Outlets, Unhealthy Dietary Behaviours and Child Body Size Using Structural Equation Modelling
BACKGROUND: Children residing in neighbourhoods of high deprivation are more likely to have poorer health, including excess body size. While the availability of unhealthy food outlets are increasingly considered important for excess child body size, less is known about how neighbourhood deprivation, unhealthy food outlets and unhealthy dietary behaviours are interlinked. METHODS: This study involves children aged 8-13 years (n=1029) and resided in Auckland, New Zealand. Unhealthy dietary behaviours (frequency of consumption of unhealthy snacks and drinks) and food purchasing behaviour on the route to and from school were self-reported. Height and waist circumference were measured to calculate waist-to-height ratio (WtHR). Geographic Information Systems mapped neighbourhood deprivation and unhealthy food outlets within individual, child-specific neighbourhood buffer boundaries (800 m around the home and school). Associations between neighbourhood deprivation (calculated using the New Zealand Index of Deprivation 2013), unhealthy food outlets, unhealthy dietary behaviours and WtHR were investigated using structural equation modelling in Mplus V.8.0. Age, sex and ethnicity were included as covariates, and clustering was accounted for at the school level. RESULTS: Structural equation models showed that unhealthy food outlets were unrelated to unhealthy dietary behaviours (estimate 0.029, p=0.416) and excess body size (estimate -0.038, p=0.400). However, greater neighbourhood deprivation and poorer dietary behaviours (estimate -0.134, p=0.001) were associated with greater WtHR (estimate 0.169, p<0.001). CONCLUSION: Excess child body size is associated with neighbourhood deprivation and unhealthy dietary behaviours but not unhealthy outlet density or location of these outlets near home and school.