, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 32-41
Date: 21 Dec 2012

Social Components of the Obesity Epidemic


Obesity represents an important public health concern and has negative health and social consequences. Epidemiological and observational studies have contributed to highlighting the multifactorial and complex etiology of obesity. Among the social components of the obesity epidemic the following appear to be the most relevant: assortative mating, parental age, socio-economical status and educational level, body dissatisfaction, sleep conditions, sedentary environments by build neighborhood, energy saving devices, work occupation and alcohol consumption. The assortative mating and parental traits (age, education level) have shown an important influence on the weight of children. In turn, sleep deprivation may reduce the energy expenditure and increase food intake, which can explain a relation with obesity. Body dissatisfaction in childhood and adolescence seems to increase the risk of obesity in adulthood. The low physical activity and spent sedentary time can be associated with unfavorably built environment, including low walk ability, unsafe playgrounds and pedestrian pathways. Moreover, the obesity per se, over time, may reduce physical activity level and social ability as well as influence in assortative mating, and subsequent intergenerational obesity condition. All findings together demonstrated that social components of obesity are as complex as itself. In summary, more studies concerning social, cultural and environment traits are needed in order to assess the effect of excessive adiposity in its own occurrence and chronicity. In addition, it is urgent to include obesity prevention as a relevant topic on the public health agenda in developing countries.