Nutrition and Physical Activity among Somali Immigrants in Sweden

Jenny Aronsen-Torp

Research output: ThesisLicentiate Thesis


Overall aim of the thesis
The overall aim of the research was to explore dietary habits, physical activity and weight status of Somali immigrants in southern Sweden.

Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Study I was a questionnaire-based, cross - sectional study containing questions about socio demographic data, physical activity (PA) and dietary habits. In study II a qualitative design was used. Interview data from three focus group interviews were collected and interpreted with content analysis.

Study I showed that 51.3 % of the 114 respondents, both women and men, had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or over. The female respondents had higher frequency of a BMI of 25 or over. Further, there were no statistical differences regarding PA or dietary habits between those with a BMI below 25 and those with a BMI of 25 or over. Additionally, besides being female, being married was associated with having a BMI of 25 or over. Socio- demographic factors were stronger explanatory factors of BMI than PA or dietary habits among the studied group. The repeated focus group interviews (study II) with Somali women, which aimed to elucidate, Somali women’s experiences of cooking and meals after immigration to Sweden resulted in four themes: change in routines and content of the daily meals, changed experiences related to cooking and shopping for groceries, the social dimensions in food-related occupations and change of identity and roles. Study II highlighted the transformation in occupational habits resulting from changes in meal- and shopping activities, which lead to altered family connections and eating routines. Another important finding affecting their food related occupations was the fact that women were gaining employment roles outside their home.

Food related occupations were important for women’s identity and sense of cultural belonging. Mostly changes in cooking and meals are an outcome of changes in the environment and social life. Together with development and absence of policies in areas as health, urban planning, and education, changes in food patterns may constitute a risk factor for health. By identifying and getting acquainted with and by trying to understand Somali women's choices and priorities in their daily lives, .Nurse practitioners have an important role in promoting and encouraging positive lifestyle behaviors as well as identifying and deal with obesity-related diseases.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Sustainable occupations and health in a life course perspective
  • Erlandsson, Lena-Karin, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Health Sciences


  • Somali Immigrants
  • Food-occupations
  • Identity
  • Gender roles
  • Eating habits
  • Physical activity
  • Body mass index
  • Health
  • Weight-status


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