Over the last century Western nations have experienced profound economic, technological and social changes that have alleviated some problems but created others. One of the problems to have arisen is that of obesity. While consumers may be benefiting from an abundance of cheap food, it is clear that there are those in society who are unable to control their eating habits and developing a weight problem as a result. In the past it was only the richest in society who could afford to grow fat, but nowadays it is the poorest in society who are more likely to find themselves carrying too much weight.
Food is reasonably inexpensive in the West, but price differences still exist between products, so that it is might appear to be cheaper to purchase lower quality food that contains more calories and fat. Indeed, it can be more expensive to buy wholemeal products and to choose cuts of meat that contain less fat, but sometimes people make their food choices based on convenience and taste rather than out of any concern for nutritional value.
Consequently, there are plenty of people on low incomes who choose to eat fast food on a regular basis because it saves them the hassle of cooking and seems to be cheaper than it actually is. For people who are working long hours for very little money the need for a ‘treat’ can be overwhelming and compared to doing drugs or drinking alcohol eating fast food or junk food seems a relatively minor ‘sin’. Besides, individuals from poorer backgrounds may not be as clued up on the nutritional value of different foods as those from wealthier backgrounds, which therefore leaves them more likely to make bad choices.
Many people are not getting enough exercise, either, so that the combination of consuming more calories and expending fewer is leading to an increasing number of people gaining weight. Fewer people today have physically demanding jobs than they did in the past, as even low-paid jobs tend to be in the service sector rather than involving any manual labour. It can be a struggle for anyone to make time for exercise, but particularly for those who have to work long hours just to make ends meet.
What makes the situation worse is that obese parents are passing on their bad habits to their children, so that a child growing up in poverty has a shorter life expectancy than a child growing up in a more affluent environment. It is therefore clear that a link does exist between socioeconomic status and obesity, with those from low-income backgrounds more likely to find themselves obese and developing health problems as a result.