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Obesity in North America: Assessing the socioeconomic factors

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  1. Introduction
  2. The increased risk of morbidity
  3. The prevalence of obesity among North Americans
  4. Childhood obesity
  5. Obesity and the conception of upward social mobility
  6. The reduction of obesity rates among the wealthy
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Obesity has become a North American epidemic that is closely associated with the stereotypical overindulgence of western culture. Unfortunately, the prevalence of obesity is on the rise. In fact, ?currently, more that half of Canadian adults are obese or overweight (more than 5 million Canadians are obese and an additional 8 million Canadians are overweight, respectively). The number of obese adults in Canada almost tripled between 1985 and 2001. The prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada is just as alarming. In 1979 the overweight/obesity rate was 15% among children and adolescents aged 2 to 17 years old.

There have been similar effects occurring worldwide, as there are thought to be more than 1 billion overweight adults and more than 300 million of those are thought to be obese (WHO, 2008, par. 2). Yet in North American specifically, there is a number of socioeconomic factors, such as high cost of healthy food and conforming to normative values that contribute to obesity in a culture that is preoccupied with the production of fast, economical and poorly-prepared food.

[...] More simply, it remains unclear as to whether the plentiful existence of cheap fast-food restaurants contribute to obesity rates or whether the greater number of obese individuals in North American is generating a demand for the production of more restaurants. That is to say, are the McDonald's restaurants that appear on every street corner the problem, or are the generally obese clientele creating a demand for the production of more establishments? Thus we return to the question of the chicken or the egg, as research demonstrates that the number of fast food restaurants inversely correlates to the socioeconomic status of a particular area: spatial distribution of fast food restaurants and supermarkets that provide options for meeting recommended dietary intake differed according to racial distribution and poverty rates. [...]

[...] have one of the highest obesity incidences in the world. Surely sedentary lifestyles and cheap food play a role, but it is also quite likely that life on reservations, with low expectations for future mobility and high levels of depression/alcoholism also play a role (Graham par. 22). Although it is extremely difficult to isolate the influential effects of normative or expected values in comparison to the prevalence and availability of cheap foods and sedentary lifestyles, it seems that the cultural attitude towards obesity dramatically affects its prevalence among certain social groups. [...]

[...] The normative values of North American society are changing normative values social norm is much like the social norm of more than one hundred years ago, as obesity is seemingly becoming normalized in the context of a North American society, where fast food is readily available and millions upon millions of people are seeing the lasting effects of overindulgence. Thus it is increasingly becoming abnormal to resist the temptations of convenience, because the very concept of eating healthy goes against the consumer mentality, which is essentially an innate desire to consume on a consistent basis. [...]

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