Social/Economic Issues


Lt Col Reynolds
In some cases, social, economic, and cultural factors can play a role in a person’s risk for obesity. These factors often determine where people live, work, and play. Can you tell us more about this, Dr. Patel?

Dr. Patel
Well, for example, Dr. Reynolds, low-income areas may lack sidewalks, safe and affordable places to exercise, and access to healthy food stores. In addition, high-calorie processed foods often cost less than healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables. Because of these barriers, maintaining energy balance can prove difficult in low-income households.[1]

However, socioeconomic status seems to affect men and women differently. Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with lower incomes. The trend for women is the opposite. Higher-income women are less likely to be obese than women with lower incomes.[2]

There’s no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend. Those with college degrees are less likely to be obese when compared with women who are not as educated.[3]

A person’s cultural background may also affect their risk for obesity. Some cultures have foods with a lot of fat or sugar, which can contribute to a high-calorie diet. Family events at which people eat large amounts of food can also make it difficult to control portions. The type and amount of food have a direct impact on energy balance.

Also, there seems to be a correlation between certain racial groups and obesity. The black population has the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity, followed by Hispanics and Caucasians. Asians have the lowest rates of obesity. How obesity affects different racial groups could be the result of cultural differences, such as diet and activity, but genetic differences that determine body fat distribution may play a part as well.[4]

[1]“Access to Healthy, Affordable Food,” Let’s Move,, accessed July 7, 2016.

[2] Cynthia L. Ogden, Molly M. Lamb, Margaret D. Carooll, and Katherine M. Flegal, “Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in Adults: United States, 2005–2008,” CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION, No. 50 (December 2010),, accessed July 7, 2016.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “Obesity and Socioeconomic Status in Adults: United States, 2005–2008,” CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION,, accessed July 7, 2016.