Wow, now we not only have to worry about getting the most recent flu; we also have to worry about obesity. This new research is pretty fascinating.
Britain’s ever-expanding waistline is partly the result of trying subconsciously ‘to keep up with the Joneses’, according to two leading economists.
They say that in a society where a growing number of people are fat, we are less bothered about staying slim.
The phenomenon, called ‘imitative obesity’, could
The findings come from a study of nearly 30,000 people from 29 European countries over the past five decades carried out by Professor David Blanchflower – who sits on the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee – and Professor Andrew Oswald, of
the University of Warwick.
The academics believe that obesity can be transmitted across society like a social ‘virus’.
‘It may be easier to be fat in a society that is fat,’ they said.
The number of fat people has been rising sharply since the 1960s. In 1980 six per cent of men and eight per cent of women were obese in the UK. Twenty years later, 22 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women were obese.
At least 11 million men and nine million men are thought to be overweight in the UK – while 12 million people are clinically obese.
If the trend continues, one thirds of adults and half of all children will be obese by 2020.
‘Consumption of calories has gone up but that does not tell us why people are eating more,’ said Prof Oswald.
‘Some have argued that obesity has been produced by cheaper food, but if fatness is a response to greater purchasing power, why do we routinely observe that rich people are thinner than poor people?
‘A lot of research into obesity, which has emphasized sedentary lifestyles or human biology or fast-food, has missed the key point. Rising obesity needs to be thought of as a sociological phenomenon not a physiological one. People are influenced by relative comparisons, and norms have changed and are still changing.’
The economists used studies going back to 1958 which looked at people’s satisfaction levels and their Body Mass Index – a measure of obesity based on weight and height.
They found that well-being was linked to someone’s BMI – and that people who think they are fat tend to be unhappier.
Possibly the world’s biggest baby, Nadia Khalina weighed a whopping 7.75 kg (17.1 lb) at birth.
They also found that people’s perception of their own weight was heavily influenced by the weight of people around them.
As more people become overweight in a world where they are competing for jobs, status and partners, the perception of what counts as obese changes.
‘When my neighbour gets a little fatter, I …become a little fatter since it is now not necessary to be so slim in order to compete,’ they wrote in a research paper for a conference at Warwick University.
Past studies have shown that people regard unemployment with less of a stigma if all their neighbours are out of work.
‘If human beings care about their relative weight, a form of imitative obesity can emerge in which people subconsciously keep up with the weight of the Joneses,’ they said.
The study found that nearly half of European women, and a third of European men, feel overweight.
The more educated someone is, the more likely they are to feel fat. For any given BMI level, someone with a university degrees feels much fatter than someone who left school at 16.
Women were more prone to feel overweight then men who were just as portly. Their happiness with their weight didn’t just depend on their own weight, but also the obesity levels of other women of the same age.
Most doctors believe the rising rates of obesity are caused by lack of exercise and too much food. Modern lifestyles are far less active than those of previously generations.
Housework is less labour intensive, workers spend all day sitting down and children spend more time indoors (source).
Obviously, no one is going to stop socializing with their friends that may or may not be the same weight as them. I am not sure as a fitness professional that I agree with this; this just happens to be the newest research.
(CES, PES, CPT, BS)