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Why are Disadvantaged Adults More Likely to be Obese?
|Obesity at the individual level is a medical problem, but the rapid rise in global obesity is a policy problem.|
Research on US data shows that the obesity is inversely related to a variety of measures of social and economic advantage. One important factor is years of maternal education (the amount of education taken by one's mother), but much of the link between socioeconomic factors and obesity remains unexplained.
Obesity is a major social and public health issue – one that policy-makers around the world cannot avoid. Obese adults are at relatively high risk of premature death and health problems like diabetes, gallbladder disease, coronary heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension and asthma. Excess weight reduces the quality of life, and results in productivity losses due to disability, illness and premature mortality. All of these problems raise medical expenditures and place stress on the health care system.
The rise in excess weight has been widely documented for both adults and children in the United States and obesity is growing rapidly throughout much of the world. For example, 32% of U.S. adults were obese in 2003-2004 compared to just 15% in 1976-1980. It is also a problem in Europe as the table shows.
Source: International Association for the Study of Obesity in June 2007
Note: Age range and year of data in surveys may differ. With the limited data available, prevalence is not age-standardized. Self reported surveys may underestimate true prevalence.
The prevalence of obesity is not evenly distributed across the population, but rather is inversely related to a variety of measures of social and economic advantage. For instance, rates of obesity are relatively high for nonwhites and those with low levels of income or education. Such patterns are consistent with evidence that high socioeconomic status adults are healthier than their less advantaged peers. The reasons for this correlation are difficult to identify.