Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blog 2 Topic - Obesity

Hi Everyone,

I thought I would get the ball rolling on my blog two topic. The question I have selected is:

"Describe the social psychology of obesity. You might consider issues such as:
To what extent is obesity attributable to culture, society, community and family, and to what extent is it attributable to individual physical and psychological factors? How are obese people treated by society and why?"

I am particularly interested in researching the societal factors which contribute to the rising numbers of obese individuals, both in adults and children. The first thing I wanted to investigate was how prevalent obesity actually is in Australia, but also in other countries. The graph below encapsulates this by identifying the developed countries with the highest prevalence rates of obesity (click image to view larger version). This graph indicates that Australia is currently ranked as the sixth highest obese nation, with 21.7% of Australians (fifteen years old and over) now being classified as obese, while 30.6% of U.S citizens are obese.

These are very alarming statistics which continue to rise dramatically. Not only does obesity have a very negative impact on one’s health, it can also be very damaging to one’s psychological well-being, with prejudice and stereotyping both common societal problems experienced by obese individuals. There are so many variables which can contribute to obesity, but here are just a few of the factors I plan to focus on in my essay.

* Emotional and psychological contributors (e.g. low self-esteem, low self-efficacy, depression etc).
* Lifestyle (e.g. lack of exercise, poor diet, stress etc).
* Genetic contributions.
* Medical illnesses.
* Culture (e.g. traditions, celebrations, fast food chains and marketing/advertising).
* The effects of modelling (e.g. family members, friends, peers etc).

For anyone else who is interested in this topic, I have provided a link to some information outlining what obesity is, some of the societal and environmental contributors to the problem and how obesity is measured using one’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Click Here


Mike said...

Hey Jess, interesting topic choice!

Just a thought, I reckon one thing that has contributed to childhood obesity in Aus is the drought. The ovals & parks are like concrete. I live next to an oval and when I was young it was green and lush, we used to play footy, cricket, soccer etc everyday with all the kids near us. Nowdays, if you did that you'd probrably break your arms.

Keith Henderson said...

G'day Jessica,

This is an extremely relevant topic in todays world.

My personal experience and interest in the topic has highlighted a few factors which I feel significantly contribute to the phenomenon.

We are constantly bombarded with images of sex and beauty by the media.
This promotes glamourisation of body shapes which are unrealistic for the vast majority (most of us work or study full time and dont have the time to exercise for hours every day like the celebrities do).
Negative social outcomes related to self-esteem can arise especially amongst our youth.

The western world has been innundated with an explosion of highly processed, highly palatable high energy food which appeals directly to our neural hunger inmpulses adapted to a time when food was scarce. Many reputable scientists are blaming the obesity epidemic on fructose supplementation in foods which places increased strain on the liver. This indirectly affects insulin regulation.

Finally, the virtual world is growing smaller with the internet redefining communication. Standard practice in my offices is to email someone who is sitting 50m away! I think it's easier to just get up and walk over to them. We are getting less exercise because the most work a lot of people do in a day is turn on their computer.

Good luck with your research.