Who is responsible for the rise in obesity?
The catastrophic rise in obesity across the United States and worldwide has been making headlines. Obesity is associated with a myriad of physical and emotional problems which can be life threatening. It appears modern lifestyles with too much junk food and not enough exercise are largely to blame, and yet who is actually responsible for things going this far wherein the overall health of the entire human species is at risk from obesity?
Researchers sought to determine who it is the public perceives of as being most responsible for the rise in obesity, reported the journal Appetite. The researchers also wanted to identify the determinants for such perceptions. They conducted a nationwide survey of 800 U.S. individuals. The respondents were asked in regard to three categories, primarily, somewhat, and not to blame for the rise in obesity, to list the following seven entities:
1: Food manufacturers
2: Grocery stores
4: Government policies
Eighty percent of the respondents said individuals were primarily to blame for the catastrophic rise in obesity. Parents were noted to be the next-most blameworthy group, with 59% ascribing them primary blame.
Fast food restaurants have been hit with a great deal of the blame for the rise in obesity in the United States, but questions have been raised regarding the validity of this blame, reports College of Aces on Jan. 22, 2014. The research survey, which was conducted by two food economists, has revealed that most people believe that individuals are to blame for their own obesity, not restaurants, grocery stores, farmers, or government policies.
An implication which has arisen from this research is that creating and enforcing public policies to help lower obesity and/or to encourage healthier food choices may not be as effective as policy makers would like to think. Brenna Ellison, a researcher at the University of Illinois, has explained that she and her colleague, Jayson Lusk at Oklahoma State University, have both been interested in the effectiveness of different food policies. However, previous research has shown many of the food policies which are designed to improve food choices, such as requiring calorie information on restaurant menus and taxing sugar-sweetened beverages, do not always produce the results which are intended. Questions have arisen as to why these policies are meeting with failure.
Ellison has said, “Obesity is in the news every day so it would be hard to say that people are unaware of the policy initiatives in place to reduce U.S. obesity rates.” Ellison takes the position that a more likely conclusion is that the beliefs of consumers do not necessarily align themselves with the beliefs of policy makers and public health advocates. We like to think of the United States as an individualistic based society, and so it’s not really surprising that we would put this responsibility for obesity on ourselves.