PWP 18- Health Psychology and the social explanations for obesity


Hi everyone, I hope that you had a great weekend.

In today's episode of The Psychology World Podcast, I'm talking about health psychology and the social explanations for obesity- so in this episode we draw psychological knowledge from social psychology.


The show notes for today's show are taken from my Health Psychology book so please enjoy:

I’ve decided to merge these two chapters together as they’re closely linked and you can put risk and protective factors under the umbrella of social explanations for obesity.


Social explanations:

There are many different social and environmental causes of obesity. However, the main two causes are an inactive lifestyle as well as types of food.


Over the past 50 or 100 years, there has been so much development of technology that our lifestyles have become very inactive. For example: before the development of cars and motor vehicles you would need to walk or cycle to work but now that you can drive you don’t need to. This striving acts as a passive rest and can lead to a lack of exercise.


Resulting in you not spending as many calories as you intake leading to the build-up of fat and over time can make you obese.


A change in the types of foods we eat can lead to an increase in calories as processed foods tend to contain more sugar and fats than more natural foods as well as they tend to be cheaper than other food. Linking back to a person’s socioeconomic status. This leads to an increase in calories, fat and eventually obesity.


While the case study below doesn’t focus on obesity, it effectively shows how the environment can impact health behaviours and lead to a negative health problem.


Mays et al (2014):

· Researchers used a sample of 406 teenagers aged 12-17 years old to investigate the effects of parental smoking.

· Interviews were done with the teenagers and their parents.

· Following this, the teenagers had a follow-up interview one and five years later.

· The parents’ interviews focused on their smoking history, current smoking, and nicotine dependence.

· Results showed that teenagers with nicotine dependent parents were more likely to start smoking early in life as well as they were more likely to become earlier experimenters with smoking with each additional year of exposure.

· In conclusion, adolescents with nicotine-dependent parents are susceptible to more intense smoking patterns and this risk increases with longer duration of exposure.


Critical thinking:

The study effectively examines the effects of parental smoking by using this teenager age group. This makes the study effective as this age group typically is the most likely to experiment with smoking and it’s with this age group that sees the impact of parental smoking clearer. Compared with younger children and adults.


However, this experiment may be an example of reductionism because this experiment looks only at the effects of parental smoking and the increased likelihood of the children smoking, without considering other factors for the increased likelihood. For example peer pressure, stress or possibly genetic factors. Overall, this could cast doubt the effects of parental smoking as we don’t know how important it is compared to other factors.


I hope that you enjoyed today's show and if you want to learn more about Health Psychology then please consider check out my Health Psychology book.

Have a great week everyone!

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