Obesity and SES

The topic of interest for today is the crucial role of socioeconomic status (SES) in the development of obesity. Recent years have witnessed dramatic escalations in the prevalence of obesity, particularly in countries such as New Zealand and Australia. There is a wealth of literature documenting the various causes of obesity. Nonetheless, it is worth of note that the approach to obesity has frequently been general across the board. With a narrow focus, this critical review will explore one of the rarely studied connections between SES and obesity. To achieve this objective, five peer-reviewed articles were selected and examined to establish the crucial role of SES in the development of obesity. Three quantitative and two qualitative research articles were considered in the review of the literature. All the research articles, irrespective of the research approach, focused on the relationship between SES and the prevalence of obesity in New Zealand. Firstly, the review will take a general point of view by defining obesity and the SES before narrowing down to the connection between them.
Virtually all research articles selected agree that obesity is a health condition in which the body has accumulated excess body fat, which is harmful. Nonetheless, a perfect definition that seems to have attracted no criticism is one offered by Gearhart Jr, Gruber, & Vanata (2008): “…. in that intake of calories is greater than caloric expenditure.” In essence, this definition rules out the consideration of fats as the main cause of obesity. It is worth including the term calories in the definition as it emphasizes the biological cause of obesity. For this reason, the review will regard Gearhart Jr, Gruber, & Vanata (2008)definition of obesity as the most valid one now.
​Studies focusing on obesity can be classified into two important groups. Those examining childhood obesity and those targeting adulthood obesity. However, there is an intermediate category of studies examining the link between adulthood and childhood obesity. In such studies, childhood obesity is regarded as a causative of the adulthood overweight. One such study was conducted by Venn, et al. (2007), who followed up participants from childhood to adulthood in Australian schools. Venn, et al. (2007) pursued a quantitative approach in studying the link between childhood obesity and adulthood overweight. The height and weight of the participants were measured, and self-reported at follow-up. The validity of the self-reported data was checked in the participants. To avoid biases, the research used the international standard definitions of BMI. The strength of this study resides in its sample size, national sampling as well as the quality of height and weight measurement at baseline. However, the drawbacks reside in the lack of objectivity because the subjects were supposed to self-report their height. Further, with little focus on the influence of socio-economic factors on the transition of childhood obesity to adulthood overweight, it is imperative to look at the issue from a new angle (Venn, et al., 2007). It is arguable that changes take place in the SES of individuals as they transition from children to adults. Based on these studies, there are two categories of obesity (childhood and adulthood). Nonetheless, it is worth noting that most research consider the causes of both childhood and adulthood obesity to be the same. Consequently, the role played by SES is arguably the same in both childhood and adulthood obesity. Two of the selected articles concentrated on childhood obesity, whereas the rest examined obesity in general.
​Of key interest is the article published by Walton, Signal, & Thomson (2009). The researchers aimed at establishing the link between household economic resources and childhood nutrition. Obesity is an outcome of poor nutrition. Consequently, it is arguable that the researchers aim indirectly attempted to associate obesity and household economic resources. Based on a qualitative research model that used the narrative view of the literature, the researchers investigated childhood nutrition within household setting. These model identifies cost hindrances to adequate healthy food as a primary factor in the foods consumed and purchased in the household (Walton, Signal, & Thomson, 2009). Additionally, this model was significantly and explicitly informed by complexity theory and systems theory. By definition, complexity theory concentrates on the study of sophisticated system. In this case, a system refer a collection of objects or processes regarded to be of interest.

Viewing childhood obesity and overweight as social phenomenon that arises from the relevant social system as a whole makes the qualitative model appropriate. Consequently, to comprehend childhood overweight and obesity, the social system must be understood. The only limitation linked toWalton, Signal, & Thomson’s (2009) research model in identifying the economic determinants of childhood obesity is the lack of objectivity. A qualitative study is based on the researcher’s interpretation of the findings. The overall findings of the research showed that the socioeconomic factors influencing childhood obesity include cost of food, food purchasing practices, food available in the community, economic resources available in the house, and the time available for cooking and shopping. 

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