America is getting fatter. At least that’s what statistics have shown, and a recent Harvard study claims that the number on our national weight scale is going to keep climbing.
Currently, one-third of American adults are obese, while an additional 34 percent are simply overweight, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states. However, Harvard University researchers believe that the obesity rate will reach 42 percent, nearly half of the population, by 2050. Predictions from the study appear in the PLoS Computational Biology Journal.
“Our analysis suggests that while people have gotten better at gaining weight since 1971, they haven’t gotten any better at losing weight,” lead researcher Alison L. Hill said. David G. Rand, Martin A. Nowak, and Nicholas A. Christakis also co-authored the study.
And according to Hill, obesity in itself might be a social disease. The researchers concluded that there are three ways in which obesity has spread in our society. First, through social networks, from person to person—individuals sharing common spaces and inheriting certain eating or fitness habits from others. The spread of obesity also occurs through a nonsocial transmission—individuals who have an easier access to unhealthy foods or sedentary lifestyles. Lastly, the rate of recovery from obesity, or the ability to lose weight sufficiently and maintain a healthy body size is low.
What is the most popular way in which obesity spreads? Despite what we may believe, social factors play a heavy role in the weight game.
“We find that while nonsocial transmission of obesity remains the most important component in is spread, social transmission of obesity has grown much faster in the last four decades,” said Rand, a research scientist and a fellow in Harvard’s Department of Psychology and Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
One of the common arguments behind what puts individuals at risk for obesity is the social structures of poverty. Being poor can prevent individuals from being able to get quality, healthy food or produce in grocery stores that are often higher priced. For some, stressful lifestyles with long working hours leave little time for adults to take a healthy timeout for themselves. This is not to say that all people who are poor are overweight. However, we cannot deny the relationship that exists between wealth, class, and weight as we work towards educating communities and creating a movement for healthier lives amongst women.