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Association between indigenous status and Body Mass Index (BMI) in Australian adults: Does sleep duration affect the relationship?

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Background Overweight/obesity is a well-defined risk factor for a variety of chronic cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Sleep duration has been associated with overweight/obesity and other cardio metabolic and neurocognitive problems. Notably, overweight/obesity and many of the associated comorbidities are prevalent in Indigenous Australians. Generally, sleep duration has been associated with BMI for Australian adults but information about Australian Indigenous adults' sleep is scant. A recent report established that sleep is a weak predictor of obesity for Indigenous Australian adults. Aim To determine whether sleep remains a predictor of obesity when physical activity, diet and smoking status are accounted for; and to determine whether sleep duration plays a mediating role in the relationship between Indigenous status and BMI. Methods Statistical analyses of 5,886 Australian adults: 5236 non-Indigenous and 650 Indigenous people aged over 18 years who participated in the Australian Health Survey 2011-2013. Demographic and lifestyle characteristics were described by χ2 and t-tests. ANOVA was used to determine the variables that significantly predicted BMI and sleep duration. Stepwise regression analyses were performed to determine the strongest significant predictors of BMI. Sleep duration was self-reported; BMI was calculated from measurement. Results The study revealed two main findings: (i) short sleep duration was an independent predictor of obesity (adjusted-R2 = 0.056, p <0.0001); and (ii) controlling for sleep duration and other possible confounders, Indigenous status was a significant predictor of BMI overweight/obesity. Sleep duration played a weak, partial mediator role in this relationship. Increased BMI was associated with lower socioeconomic status and level of disadvantage of household locality for non-remote Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Conclusion Indigenous status strongly predicted increased BMI. The effect was not mediated by the socioeconomic indicators but was partially mediated by sleep duration.


Publication Date







2 February

Article Number

ARTN e0263233




Public Library of Science (PLoS)



Rights Statement

© 2022 Deacon-Crouch et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.