Obesity in the UK

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Obesity in the UK – individual problem or national plague?

Introduction:

Levels of obesity are on the rise in the UK and following calls from doctors and other health professionals, the government has pledged to fight obesity with promises to help British society to fight the problem on a number of levels. Predictions are that in 2010 almost one third of adults will be obese (Lean et al., 2006), and the obesity epidemic, which is running out of control could bankrupt the health service (Haslam et al., 2006) adding to the calls for something to be done about the problem. Tony Blair has offered to provide money for prevention and fighting the existing symptoms of obesity. Obesity is arguably the greatest challenge to public health in Britain today and there is a need for effective action. One of the major warning signs is the rising levels of obesity among children and there is a growing recognition that if the problem is not tackled with some degree of urgency in this group the long term health of the nation will suffer. While there are now a number of well established potential treatments for obesity in the UK, it has been suggested that measures for enhancing self esteem would be particularly important in those groups identified as being at risk from later eating disorders and obesity (Button et al., 1997, p.46). The issue of health in general concerns the nation, with the government, consumers and businesses sharing the burden of addressing health related issues. The National Audit Office has estimated that obesity accounts for eighteen million days of sickness absence and 30 000 premature deaths each year (Bourn, 2001). Obesity has physical and psychological causes and symptoms but the nature of the psychological mechanisms involved in adjusting to obesity are unclear (Ryden et al., 2001). There are a number of health problems associated with obesity, with mortality rising exponentially with increasing body weight (Wilding, 1997).Despite the growing level of the problem, questions have been asked in respect of whether Britons really need this help at a national level and if they realise that obesity is a problem for individuals and the nation as a whole. The purpose of this study is to assess the views of Britons on the obesity issue. Levels of psychological well being, the locus of control and self esteem will be measured in relation to being overweight. Differences between men and women will be considered. In addition two different age groups will be investigated – under thirties will be compared with over thirties to ascertain similarities and differences. There is also an investigation into the effects, if any, of ethnicity on obesity. The main focus of interest will be to determine if there is a difference in self perception between those who consider themselves to be overweight and those who do not. In order to investigate the issue the body mass index will be calculated for all participants and compared with the perceptions they have of themselves in terms of being overweight.

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