Roads to Obesity: Social Environment

sharma-obesity-money1Continuing my discussion of the paper by Julia Temple Newhook, Deborah Gregory and Laurie Twells from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, published in the Journal of Social, Behavioral, and Health Sciences, on what causes some people to gain weight, we turn to what the authors describe as, “Gradual Processes”.

Thus, in their extensive interviews with individuals seeking bariatric surgery, although most interviewees focused on explanations with a considerable sense of self-blame, many did report social structural factors as playing an important role in their weight gain, without using these as “excuses”.

“Zoë pointed out that outdoor exercise was too difficult for her in winter conditions, and indoor exercise in a gym was out of her reach financially, and gave specific policy recommendations: “They’re always telling people to lose weight, that we’re an overweight province. Well, help out a bit. Make gym memberships a little more cheaper, make it a little more accessible to people.”

Other barriers included occupational and domestic work schedules:

“When you’re sitting at a desk 40, 45, or 50 hours a week, you’re trying to establish yourself so that people are looking to you, so you get promotions as opposed to someone else, so you’re putting in those extra hours and you’re coming home tired. You’re sitting down for supper, and then it’s 7:00 at night.Okay, when do I do anything now?”

“Wanda explained, “I got the two kids. I have a gym membership, a family gym membership; it’s just that we never get there. I work all day. When I get home I’m tired. … Just finding the time is hard.”

As the authors note, leisure time distribution is a social inequality that particularly affects those with less income as well as mothers of young children.

Furthermore, social inequality related to the risk for occupational injuries with subsequent weight gain are likewise often not seen as related to the social determinants of health.

Finally, built environments and the cost of weight-loss programs were seen as contributing factors that made weight management efforts difficult or unsustainable.

I am sure that readers will have their own social determinants to contribute to this list.

Berlin, Germany