3 Environmental Factors That May Cause Obesity

You have been watching television for the past few hours and notice an advertisement of a large, cheesy hamburger on TV and you feel hungry. You decide to order in because there is nothing like a good, meaty burger that satisfies your stomach. However, what you don’t realize is that you are at the risk of being obese if you continue this lifestyle.

Obesity is widespread and continues to be a public health issue around world including the United States. Obesity is one among the different causes of chronic health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, and even cancer.1

Environmental factors, including the social and physical environment, can cause obesity. There are certain behavioral traits that are also associated with obesity.

Environmental Factors Associated With Obesity

Before we examine the environmental factors, you need to know the term built environment. Built environment includes all of the physical parts of where we live and work (e.g., homes, buildings, streets, open spaces, and infrastructure).

1. Lack Of Physical Activity

One of the main reasons why people gain excess weight is due to the lack of physical activities like regular exercises or even as simple as walking.

Due to our busy schedules and lifestyle, we find it convenient to use our vehicles to travel – even if the distance is short. Where short distances can be walked, we choose the easy alternative of driving our vehicles. This leads to a decrease in our physical activity that we can afford.2

People now prefer to shop online because it is a click away. Clothes, groceries, healthcare products, and others are all available on the Internet. This reduces the physical shopping experience in a mall or at a departmental store.

Obesity among children is also a rising concern today. One of the reasons contributing to this excess weight gain is their interests in television viewing or playing video games rather than outdoor activities like playing basketball or going to the park.

Most of us prefer to take the lift or the escalators at offices, malls, and other places instead of the stairs. These also limit our movements and can add to excess weight gain.

Using the stairs instead of the lifts, walking in the park, and avoiding the use of vehicles for short distances are some of the easiest ways to make sure our bodies get some form of exercise.

Engaging children in outdoor games rather than video games will help keep them active and prevent them from being obese.

2. Influence Of Fast-Food Restaurants And Food Advertising

Children and adults are both influenced by the food advertisements that are broadcast on television.

There is a study that shows the effects of food advertising on eating behaviors. The influence is far more than brand preference. In this study, children at 45 percent more when exposed to food advertisements.3

Working individuals prefer to eat food from fast-food restaurants because it is cheap and easily available. These foods are poor in nutrients that the body requires. They are fattening and result in overweight.4

Making changes to unhealthy eating habits and following a diet rich in the necessary nutrients should be followed right from childhood. Home cooked food rather than fast foods should be encouraged. This will help in controlling childhood obesity and leading a healthy life.

3. Low Socioeconomic Status (SES)

The term “socioeconomic status” is generally used to identify a person’s status with respect to others based on characteristics such as income, qualifications, type of occupation, and where they live.

There are studies that show that lower SES may contribute to the onset of obesity.5

People in the lower SES strata have limited or no access to recreational facilities or parks because their income may not allow them to reside in neighborhoods that provide them. This accounts for the lack of physical activity among children and others.

Further, there is a study that explains the nutritional differences between people of the lower SES strata and higher SES strata.6

Dietary intake among individuals from low SES communities is lower in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole-grain breads, and fiber and higher in total fat, saturated fat, eggs, meat, and refined sugar than those from high SES communities. This is because fast food is cheaper than fresh fruits and vegetables; therefore, people with low income spend on less nutritional food items.

Awareness programs that provide people with proper knowledge of how eating habits and the foods we choose affect health may help in preventing the increase of obesity among low SES population.

Our environment, lifestyle, and food habits depend on how healthy we are and is closely linked to obesity. Adequate physical activities and healthy food consumption are important to stay healthy.

1. Overweight & Obesity Statistics. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
2. Lack of exercise, not diet, linked to rise in obesity, Stanford research shows. Stanford Medicine.
3. Harris, Jennifer L., John A. Bargh, and Kelly D. Brownell. “Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior.” Health psychology 28, no. 4 (2009): 404.
4. Crino, Michelle, Gary Sacks, Stefanie Vandevijvere, Boyd Swinburn, and Bruce Neal. “The influence on population weight gain and obesity of the macronutrient composition and energy density of the food supply.” Current obesity reports 4, no. 1 (2015): 1-10.
5. Faith, Myles S., and Tanja VE Kral. “Social environmental and genetic influences on obesity and obesity-promoting behaviors: Fostering research integration.” (2006).
6. Gearhart, Randall F., Dennis M. Gruber, and David F. Vanata. “Obesity in the lower socio-economic status segments of American society.” In Forum in public policy. Ashland University, Ohio USA. Serie en internet. 2008.

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