Psychosocial aspects of obesity: Individual and societal perspectives

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This review article describes psychosocial causes and consequences of obesity in societies and at the individual level, highlighting aspects of the problem that are frequently overlooked in nutritional and medical research. The socio-economic gradient in obesity in modern society is well-documented, while the origins of this gradient are difficult to explain. Specifically, it is currently not well understood which aspects of the less advantaged socio-economic environment cause obesity. There is, however, strong evidence that the condition of obesity creates a situation of downward social mobility, possibly resulting in a positive feedback cycle. Regarding obesity's psychological origins and consequences, similar conclusions have been drawn: psychological characteristics associated with the obese state are more likely to be consequences than causes, again as a result of the negative attitudes of society towards obesity. In this context, it is interesting to note that perceptions of ideal body shape have become leaner in recent decades (particularly in women), at the same time that the prevalence of obesity is increasing. The fact that dietary and physical characteristics of the modern macroenvironment are making it increasingly difficult to avoid becoming overweight, despite the high societal value placed on being underweight, represents an intriguing contradiction of modern times.




Lissner, L. (1997, February). Psychosocial aspects of obesity: Individual and societal perspectives. Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition/Naringsforskning.

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