Research Paper on Obesity in America
Obesity has become so prevalent in today’s American society that a lot of people view it as a serious national threat. Indeed, obesity can devalue a lot of achievements of modern society, depressing the quality of life despite scientific progress. The consequences of obesity are so diverse that the far-ranging effects of this problem transgress aesthetic or medical boundaries and make it a social phenomenon.
Still, the first thing that comes to mind is the medical consequences of obesity that are both diverse and serious in their impact on a person’s health. The American Obesity Association has come up with an extremely long list of conditions that are directly or indirectly linked to extra weight. These conditions include arthritis, birth defects, various types of cancer, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), daytime sleepiness, chronic venous insufficiency, gallbladder disease, diabetes, gout, heat disorders, hypertension, liver disease and many others (AOA).
Obesity depressed the immune reaction of the body to infection thus increasing the risk of infectious diseases. Severe obesity can depress menstrual activity in women, put them at risk for disorders during pregnancy, lead to problematic deliveries and birth defects. The list that is far from complete demonstrates connection between being heavily overweight and development of virtually all conditions that are major death causes nowadays, with the exception of AIDS. This brings one to the tentative conclusion that overcoming obesity could seriously improve life expectancy. Most definitely, such a victory would contribute to dramatic improvements in the health condition of the US population.
But obesity is not only linked to physical health – recent studies show the connection to mental health as well. Although a direct link between obesity and mental disorder has not been established, researchers point out that one can cause the other and vice versa. Individuals whose weight is concentrated mostly around their waist are in a risk group for developing the so-called metabolic syndrome that accompanies weight accumulation and is linked to depression. Such people choose to “console themselves with “comfort food”, which is usually high in fat, sugar, and calories because they are anxious, lonely, angry, or suffering from low self-esteem” (Harvard Health Publications). Some particular types of depression include symptoms such as lethargy and overeating. Besides, obesity can cause depression indirectly: after it triggers poor health condition, this illness leads to depression. Obese people also do not benefit from the positive psychological impact of exercise, which aggravates their risk for developing depression.
Problems with mental health can also be connected to the psychological effects of obesity. Contemporary society, for all the prevalence of extra weight, continues to worship ideals of beauty that are incompatible with obesity. Quest for physical beauty, especially among adolescents, and those who do not fit into a set ideal are pushed to the sidelines of social interaction and, in particular, romantic relationships. Thus, being obese can cause problems with socialization, exacerbating the negative effect of this phenomenon.
So far we have discussed the negative consequences of obesity on an individual level, but it is also linked to broader social woes. Thus, the established connection between this condition and health problems can boost health care outlays in the future, raising the already sizeable medical costs. If US citizens continue to put on extra weight at the same alarming rate, this will lead to a serious rise of expenses in the Medicare program. A study by Martha L. Daviglus, M.D., professor of preventive medicine, looked into the impact of “body mass index (BMI) earlier in life on Medicare expenditures for treating cardiovascular-related disease, diabetes-related disease and total average annual Medicare charges, as well as cumulative Medicare charges, from age 65 to death or to age 83” (Obesity in Middle Age). The research that used data for Medicare outlays and input from the Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry found a strong correlation between the size of the charges for Medicare and the weight of the person. Thus, the annual charge for a non-overweight person averaged $6,225; an overweight person consumed on average services’ worth of $7,650, with the same indicators at $9,610 and $12,340 for obese and severely obese people. Thus, obesity leads to increased financial burden on the future generations that will have to provide for the current generation as it gets older and develops severe problems connected with obesity. Given the demographic trend of aging evident in most developed nations, expenditures on medical programs can rise to even higher levels, with obesity being one of the most important contributing factors.
Moreover, on the broader social level, problems with socialization can impair effective functioning of obese people in professional environments, thus lessening their productivity in the workforce.
Research indicates that schoolchildren who suffer from extra weight experience “psychosocial effects which are likely to impact on their self-image and self-esteem” (Gordon 2005). Lower self-esteem can impair a child’s performance at school, depress initiative and result in lasting psychological effects the person will carry into maturity and professional experience. In this way society as a whole is going to suffer from increased obesity of its members.
In the US, physical inactivity and obesity can soon be expected to lead as the cause for human deaths, overtaking smoking that remains the primary death cause with 435,000 deaths in 2000. This compares to 400,000 deaths caused by physical inactivity and extra weight, and the trend will soon exacerbate as “fewer Americans are smoking but more are gaining weight” (Leonard, March 10, 2004).
Summing it up, obesity has serious consequences that appear both on the personal and social level. Putting on extra weight can trigger grave medical problems, lead to mental disorders such as depression and affect the process of socialization. It is also harmful to society, impacting the professional input and quality of life of its members, as well as boosting health care expenses. For these reasons, society should strive to reduce obesity levels and advocate a healthy lifestyle.
Do you see, the kids in the picture above? Do you want your kid to look like the boy in a cute red/black cap and basketball shirt? Why not? Do we realize that this guy is obese? He has social problems in school, he has high cholesterol level, and increased blood pressure. Do you realize that he cannot run a mile and he sweats after just a few moves? Would you believe that his endocrine system is already messed up and that he cannot develop into a normal adult without medical help? If he continues his current lifestyle, he will never have a girlfriend, and if he happens to have one he will physically be unable to have sex. As time progresses he will likely develop diabetes that will have him get his legs amputated at some point. Or perhaps, he develops gallstones, and some major heart disease that will end up his miserable existence sometime before he turns 40 unless getting constant medical help. Let’s be honest, there are many people like this guy on the picture living in the USA and there is a great chance that you or your kids will look one day as the guy in the picture if you happen to eat the food this guy eats. Do you like this guy now? If yes, welcome to McDonald’s and the realm of fast food and obesity.
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